What to Do If Your Roommates Aren’t COVID Safe

There is no shame in wanting to be safe.

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Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash
Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

Welcome to our special section, Thrive on Campus, devoted to covering the urgent issue of mental health among college and university students from all angles. If you are a college student, we invite you to apply to be an Editor-at-Large, or to simply contribute (please tag your pieces ThriveOnCampus). We welcome faculty, clinicians, and graduates to contribute as well. Read more here.

Living on a college campus is something I imagine as tricky during the times of COVID-19. As young adults, we want to gain experiences, make connections and ultimately have a social life. Attending college on campus can raise some issues, such as peer pressure to attend parties and ultimately not respecting the social bubble you’re in. Being away from home makes it feel as though rules no longer apply. It can feel like a vacation, an escape from the reality of the world we are currently living. 

When it comes to who you’re living with, the behaviours of that person now have direct consequences on you. We’ve all heard the cases of roommates from hell, allowing their messy boyfriends to become permanent live-ins, trashing the washroom, and ultimately being an inconsiderate human being. Communicating your needs with this person can be difficult, to say the least. 

Now that COVID-19 exists, roommates at college should know that the level of how safe they are has a direct impact on their living partner(s). Unfortunately, your requests can only go so far depending on how agreeable your roommate is. You also can’t have full control of another person’s behaviours, and unfortunately being at college does pose risks for COVID-19, regardless of your intentions.

Below I’ve listed a few strategies that can guide you on how to handle your unsafe roommate situation.

Facilitate an Open Conversation

Communication is key in a situation like this. You need to approach your roommate in a calm manner, and find a time to express how you feel about their unsafe behaviours. Try not to appear harsh or judgmental, and just explain how their behaviour is putting you and others at risk. Be honest in how their unsafe behaviour makes you feel and ensure that by the end of the conversation, there will be some sort of agreement made. You and your floor-mate(s) could come up with strategies on how to handle the situation fairly, in a way that benefits everyone. 

Educate Your Roommate(s) 

It’s possible that your roommate(s) are simply uneducated on the devastating effects COVID-19 has exhibited. Try to educate them on the health risks and the damage that not practicing social distancing or attending dangerous events could do to our society. If they have a better understanding of the risks, and detrimental health effects that could place on themselves, their roommate(s) and families, hopefully they will take precautions seriously. 

Express Your Wishes and Boundaries

You need to be straight up and assertive in a situation like this. For example, if your roommate has a boyfriend over who is extremely unsafe but continues to visit, suggest that they only hang out in her room. When he walks into your complex, make it clear to your roommate that he must wear a mask when entering any other rooms such as the kitchen, washroom, or living room. If your roommate continues to be unsafe you can also tell them that you won’t be hanging out with them anymore. 

If All of the Above Fails 

So, if all else fails and your roommate is still in disagreement, you thankfully have a few options. 

  • Turn your room into a retreat where you can hide away. Take the time to decorate it and fill it with your favourite snacks and items. 
  • Wear a mask in main areas of the complex. 
  • If you feel as though your safety is at risk, perhaps moving back in with your parents could be an option.

Good luck!

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More Thrive Global on Campus:

What Campus Mental Health Centers Are Doing to Keep Up With Student Need

If You’re a Student Who’s Struggling With Mental Health, These 7 Tips Will Help

The Hidden Stress of RAs in the Student Mental Health Crisis

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