Having concerns about a friend or classmate's wellbeing can be difficult and stressful. There are many sources of support for students who are having difficulties.
Sometimes it can be hard to know how to help someone who appears to be struggling, particularly if you feel they're unwilling or unable to seek the help they need. But there are sources of support you can let them know about, and that you can reach out to too.
What you can do
If you have concerns that a student is in immediate danger of hurting themselves or others, you should phone 999 or take them to the Accident and Emergency (A&E) department in the nearest hospital.
If you are very concerned about another student's wellbeing or safety, please complete the Student Cause for Concern form or email us, providing as much information as you can.
Student Support and Wellbeing (SSW) are also able to offer more general advice on how to support a friend in need.
Taking steps to help
If you are worried about a friend of yours, and if they are perhaps even talking about harming themselves, we would suggest the following steps, sometimes summed up in the acronym COPE.
C is for caring
Be Caring - never ignore or take lightly anything your friend chooses to express to you. Ask more and do not be afraid that talking about the issue will put ideas into the person's mind; it is more likely that they will appreciate being taken seriously. Encourage them to go with you to a comfortable and private environment to talk things over.
O is for optimistic
Be Optimistic - as explained above, most human problems can be solved with time, care and expert help no matter how hopeless they might seem. You do not have to give up your hope just because your friend has temporarily lost theirs. However, do not let your optimism lead you to dismiss or make light of the person's concerns.
P is for practical
Be Practical - for example, do not leave a person expressing serious self-harming intent alone, especially if the means of self-harm are at hand. Involve others, using the emergency services if necessary. Be particularly vigilant if someone is drunk or under the influence of drugs, if they have made a suicide attempt in the past or if they have a clearly formulated plan. Do not, however, get drawn into making unrealistic long-term promises of ongoing support that you are unlikely to be able to keep.
E is for expert
Perhaps most importantly, seek an Expert - if the person is in immediate danger and refuses to involve anyone else, consider calling 999 yourself or at the very least getting in touch with SSW for advice. Remember that you don’t have to deal with the situation on your own, and in fact doing so may ultimately be more harmful, both to you and your friend. If your friend needs professional help and you are not suitably qualified, all you can do is try to be there for them, make sure that they get in touch with the right people and that they access suitable support.
Look after yourself too
It is important to remember that you do not have to deal with this alone. Get others involved where you can and seek expert help if appropriate.
It is also especially important that you look after yourself while supporting others. You may find it helpful to seek professional advice to discuss how the issues have affected you. SSW will be able to help you.
Remember to talk to trusted friends, family members or colleagues. You may also want speak to your Personal Tutor, your Transition Mentor if you are in first year or your supervisor if you are a research student.