How can I support my friend who is struggling?

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Anonymous #1
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Report Thread starter 2 weeks ago
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My friend and I are both doing doctoral study under the same supervisor. They have been struggling to do any studying for months, sleeps during the day, and then watches TV all night. They get extremely defensive and take almost anything as a personal attack. They also have financial issues.

As a result, they are unlikely to complete their research/pass their progress reviews. They have no official diagnosis, but a doctor has mentioned both bipolar disorder and a personality disorder in the past.

Our group feels responsible for them, as they refuse to speak to anyone else about how they're feeling (including comments about self-harm). We feel like their supervisor should know, but we don't want to break their trust. We have encouraged them to disclose it herself, but they're very reluctant.

How can we support them without pushing our own ideas onto them, but also help them get the support they need?
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OxFossil
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(Original post by Anonymous)
My friend and I are both doing doctoral study under the same supervisor. They have been struggling to do any studying for months, sleeps during the day, and then watches TV all night. They get extremely defensive and take almost anything as a personal attack. They also have financial issues.

As a result, they are unlikely to complete their research/pass their progress reviews. They have no official diagnosis, but a doctor has mentioned both bipolar disorder and a personality disorder in the past.

Our group feels responsible for them, as they refuse to speak to anyone else about how they're feeling (including comments about self-harm). We feel like their supervisor should know, but we don't want to break their trust. We have encouraged them to disclose it herself, but they're very reluctant.

How can we support them without pushing our own ideas onto them, but also help them get the support they need?
It's sounds like you've been fairly clear with the person about your concerns and have offered help? I think I'd go on the principle that unless they are at risk of serious harm, or of harming others, there is little more you can do, other than continue to offer help should they want it.

I'd be somewhat surprised if their supervisor has not picked up there is something wrong, if not directly from the person, then from checking on the progress of their work (or lack of). That said, I don't think it would be too out of line simply to mention you are worried - but I wouldn't disclose anything personal (eg conversations about self harm), especially as you don't really know what is going on for the person.
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Anonymous #1
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(Original post by OxFossil)
I'd be somewhat surprised if their supervisor has not picked up there is something wrong, if not directly from the person, then from checking on the progress of their work (or lack of). That said, I don't think it would be too out of line simply to mention you are worried - but I wouldn't disclose anything personal (eg conversations about self harm), especially as you don't really know what is going on for the person.
We are pretty sure that our supervisor has suspicions about my friend's mental health, due to some inappropriate comments made by the latter during our meetings and their general apathy towards the whole process. They have also told us that they hate our supervisor because she calls them out on doing very little/no work, and that disrupts their self image of being ahead and on top of everything. Our supervisor has also strongly recommended that my friend take a leave of absence, which I'm pretty sure she wouldn't do lightly if she thought the situation was easily reparable.
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OxFossil
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(Original post by Anonymous)
We are pretty sure that our supervisor has suspicions about my friend's mental health, due to some inappropriate comments made by the latter during our meetings and their general apathy towards the whole process. They have also told us that they hate our supervisor because she calls them out on doing very little/no work, and that disrupts their self image of being ahead and on top of everything. Our supervisor has also strongly recommended that my friend take a leave of absence, which I'm pretty sure she wouldn't do lightly if she thought the situation was easily reparable.
Ugh. It's hard to watch someone in this situation. All I can suggest is that you keep offering help, not just directly, but in the small everyday things that help people feel OK about life. Can you invite them for a picnic in the park, ask them to talk through some problem you are facing in work, etc? But please don't feel it's your job to save them. In the end, they have their own road to walk, tough as it might be.
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