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Talk about Mental Health



We all have mental health—it’s our feelings, emotions, thoughts, and mood—and we can all take steps to support it.

There are small steps that you can integrate into your day—like moving more, eating well, connecting with others, getting enough rest, or volunteering your time—to help support your mental health. At UBC, we call these the Thrive 5. For some, additional activities that you love like music, art, worship, or meditation might be what makes you feel good and helps you deal with life’s everyday challenges.  

But sometimes this isn’t enough. And it's ok (and important) to ask for help when you need it. 

Asking for help with your mental health may not feel easy. You might have had times where you feel sad, or anxious, or down in the past, or it might be ongoing. Other times, you might just not feel like yourself. You may have had help and support with your mental health in the past, or you may be experiencing mental health challenges for the first time.

One in five Canadians will experience a mental health illness or problem each year. Mental health can have a huge impact on your overall wellbeing—which can also impact your studies, your work, your relationships, or your enjoyment of everyday life.

That's why it's important to:

  1. Recognize the signs something might not be right
  2. Identify any barriers to seeking help
  3. Take your next step and talk about it with someone

 Recognize the signs something might not be right. 

Your feelings are valid, and it is important to listen to them. If you haven't been through something like this before, you may not even recognize the signs at first. But being able to identify when things aren’t quite right can make a big difference by helping you know when it is time to ask for some extra support. 

Some typical signs that you (or someone you care about) might need some additional support are: 

  • Feeling distracted, or having trouble focusing.
  • Spending more time alone not answering texts or messages. 
  • Sleeping or eating more or less than usual.
  • Changes in social media use—such as posting more or less often or sharing worrying content.
  • Not participating in activities you used to enjoy
  • Any change that is impacting your ability to do daily activities

The signs can be different for everyone, but once you’ve recognized that something your own capacity to support your mental health is exhausted, it may be time to reach out.

It’s ok (and important) to ask for support.

Like your physical health, your mental health matters, and needs care and attention; to do well, you have to be well. If you weren’t feeling physically well, you’d let people know. It is especially important to reach out for help if you’re having difficulty coping with a mental health concern. There are many reasons why someone might hesitate to seek help. It can sometimes be difficult or uncomfortable to start a conversation, but it is better than struggling alone. 

Some common reasons you may not seek help: 

You don’t know who to ask

It’s important to find someone you are comfortable talking to—a trusted friend, a family member, an Elder, a priest or chaplain or even an advisor. Sometimes the best person to talk to is just someone who will listen and who you trust. 

You don’t know where to go for help

Mental health literacy is an important skill to build. It can be tough to navigate resources or to know where to turn at first. UBC has a number of resources available. If you are a student, try starting with the self-assessment on the Student Services website. 

You don’t know which service or person will work for you

Supporting your mental health is very individual. You may need to try a few different resources before finding the one that feels right. Remember: what works for someone else might not work for you.

You don’t feel your problem is big enough, or important enough to ask for help
Everyone deals with mental health challenges differently, and every reason why is valid. Most of us only share the good things—but it’s ok to share when we’re not ok. 
You may not feel your friends or family will understand.
It’s important to talk about mental health. The more we talk about it, the more we realize everyone has mental health, and everyone can experience challenges. Talking about our mental health is one of the best things we can do to reduce the stigma. ​​​​​
Talking about mental health might be new to you. Perhaps, you have not experienced issues before, or people do not talk about mental health openly in your country/culture/ family
For some, cultural stigma around mental health, or discomfort with sharing such a personal experience might be a barrier. Talking about mental health might feel awkward at first, but support can make all the difference.
You are afraid your English is not good enough and that it is difficult to describe your feelings and emotions.
You have experienced racism or discrimination in health settings before
Systemic discrimination can have a detrimental impact on mental health. Inequities and discrimination within health settings unfortunately exist and act as a barrier to seeking help. 
North American/Western approaches may not always be the most appropriate way to support your mental health. Culturally appropriate supports are often available and need to be promoted, encouraged and normalized.
You feel uncertain about where to start or understand talking openly about mental health
Start small. If you are not comfortable talking openly about your mental health, start by choosing someone you trust to open up to. Or, you may find writing down your thoughts, or exploring self-help options is a good way to help. Take it slow and explore what works best for you. 


Take your next step and talk about it with someone

Mental health is different for everyone and what works to support some people may not work for others.  You're in control when it comes to choosing the resources and supports that work best for you and that you’re most comfortable with. 

Think about the next step that you’re comfortable with. You might start by reaching out to a family member, elder, teacher, friend, or community member first. You might also want to speak to a trained student peer who will listen, or you might want to look for professional support, like a counsellor, nurse, or doctor. You may need to try talking to a few different people or resources before you find the one that helps you thrive.

There is no one way to look for and receive support for mental health. It is part of the journey towards fostering and maintaining mental health. Asking for help is the first step. 

Supporting those in distress 

It can be difficult to know how to bring up concerns about a friend, student, or colleague's mental health but it all starts with recognizing the signs and having a conversation. There are resources available to support you with this:

Helping Faculty and Staff in Distress

  • View the UBC Orange Folder: A printable guide for helping colleagues in distress.

Assisting Students in Distress

Suicide Awareness & Intervention Training (SAIT)

In response to the needs of our campus community, UBC has transitioned from the QPR program and has created the custom Suicide Awareness and Intervention Training (SAIT) that is from a post-secondary context, is trauma-informed, and has cultural context.

This is a free, introductory course for any UBC Vancouver and Okanagan students, faculty, staff and alumni. There are no prerequisites; while training will give you skills to help someone, you’re not expected to become an expert. 

Learn More


Need help now?

If you are in need of emergency support, reach out and call 1-800-784-2433



Need help now? Help is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Call 1-800-784-2433 for the BC Crisis Line or call or text 9-8-8 for the Canada-wide Suicide Crisis Helpline toll-free.

Who can I ask for help?

Your first step towards seeking help may not be a professional counselor or doctor; in fact for many people, it starts with reaching out to someone they are comfortable with. This might be:

  • A trusted friend, family member, or colleague
  • A pastor, chaplain, or spiritual leader
  • A  peer support, such as a Wellness Peer



We all have a hand in shaping campus environments that support health, wellbeing, and sustainability. By championing wellbeing, we can build stronger and more inclusive communities at UBC and beyond.