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Student Wellbeing


If you’re worried about someone struggling to cope, it's important to remember that your job isn't to advise them or to find a solution to their problem; often just having someone to talk to is enough. Experts recommend finding ways to empathise rather than just sympathising. Empathy involves recognising how a person is feeling without trying to find a quick solution to their problem or making a judgement about whether it is valid or not.

Signs of distress

The Samaritans suggest that the following indicators can be important signs of distress, particularly when they begin to interfere with someone’s everyday life:

  • A persistent lack of energy or tiredness
  • A lasting feeling of restlessness and agitation
  • Regular feelings of tearfulness
  • Avoidance of / withdrawal from people
  • Not wanting to do things they usually enjoy
  • Using alcohol or drugs to cope with feelings
  • Finding it hard to cope with everyday things

How to respond

Talk to them...

Offering a listening ear is the most helpful thing you can do when someone is struggling. You don't have to tell them anything or give them advice; try asking questions rather than trying to find answers. This helps the person find their own way through things and take ownership when trying to resolve difficulties.

Active listening is a way of helping someone to talk about their feelings. Whilst you have to do some talking, your aim isn't to influence the other person but to help them to open up; you're really there as a sounding board. For tips on being an active listener, visit the Mind Tools website.

The earlier someone tackles a problem, the quicker they can overcome any difficulties, so encouraging them to seek support quickly can be very helpful. There are lots of people and services in Cambridge that can help: the Counselling Service, Senior Tutor, Tutor, College Nurse, Chaplain or the Student Advice Service. Or if they would prefer to seek support externally, they can approach their GP or find specialist support via the helpful contacts page.   

Tell someone...

If you’re worried about your friend but having trouble talking to them about your concerns speak to your Tutor, College Nurse, Chaplain, JCR/MCR Welfare Officer, or the Student Advice Service.

In an emergency...

Always call 999 if someone is hurt or in immediate danger. If you are in College, Porters are fully trained to deal with emergency situations.

Get support for yourself...

Supporting a friend in crisis can be emotionally exhausting and very stressful but you do not need to go through it alone.  Speak to your Tutor, College Nurse, contact the UCS or your College Counsellor, visit your GP, or speak to the Students’ Unions’ Advice Service for support.

You may be interested to read:

The Mind guide to supporting someone when they're suicidal

The Student Minds Look After Your Mate guide

The SU guide to supporting friends

The Time to Change guide to supporting someone you know

The Mental Health Foundation friendship and mental health page