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Mental health and roommates: don’t be an asshole

Editor’s note: this article deals with sensitive material surrounding mental health and suicidal thoughts. 

For those of you who are starting your first year of University here at Dalhousie, King’s or anywhere in Halifax, you may not be surprised to find out that it can be difficult living with a roommate.

They might be a friend that you know or a complete stranger picked for you by the administration based on how tidy you are or how loud you listen to your music. More often than not, those tests are utter bullshit and you can get placed with someone who is the polar opposite of what you find okay, or you just don’t see eye to eye.

Aside from having a difficult or annoying roommate you could also be placed with someone who has to deal with depression, anxiety, insomnia, bipolar disorder, or any other mental or emotional struggle. These realities can be tough to take in and understand if you have never had to deal with them before. I’ve met enough chaotically beautiful people to know the do’s and don’ts of dealing with mental illness in myself and others.

The number one thing you shouldn’t do when faced with a situation that involves any of the above is make the other person feel that it is their fault that they are never happy, or always anxious, or constantly questioning why they are here. Chances are they already think that and they don’t need someone’s second opinion.

Second. Ask. Them. Why. They. Are. Upset! It’s no surprise that half the time when someone is distant or quiet it’s because they feel that no one will listen to their problems. Or they don’t want to burden you with their problems and they think they will fight them on their own. Most times people can’t fight their demons alone and they need to be communicate with someone other than the little voice inside their head. We might be depressed but we aren’t crazy.

Do not blame your sadness on the person who has to deal with depression or anxiety because you know full well that it is not their fault. I have seen what happens to a person when their roommate tells them that the depression they deal with is ruining the other person’s life and I kid you not, she almost killed herself. She saw it as a way to end any discomfort that she may have caused. She felt abandoned, unloved, and unwanted even though she had friends that were willing to be there for her at tough times.

The person who I know who lived with an emotionally abusive roommate would not leave her room to get ready for school unless her roommate was gone. She would be too scared to go home because she knew her roommate would yell at her for sulking. She could not keep food down because of the extreme anxiety she felt when around her roommate. Having an unsupportive roommate caused her to question whether or not it was worth living, and she couldn’t tell her roommate because she knew she wouldn’t understand.

Don’t get me wrong, living with a person who has to live with mental and emotional struggles can be hard, and it is a challenge. Not everyone can do it, but there are ways to handle it that are better than others. The best thing you can do is be a decent human being and not a piece of shit.

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