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Advice and Counselling Service

Worried about someone?

If you are worried about someone else and feel unsure about what to do, you may find it helpful to read through this information.

You may be concerned about a partner, close friend, flatmate or someone on your course. They may have confided in you or they may appear to be keeping things to themselves. They may appear to be unaware or unwilling to recognise any problem.

If someone has confided in you

The most important thing you can do is listen. Knowing that you understand how they feel and want to listen may be all the person will need to begin to address their worries but if not, do not feel you have to offer ongoing support.

Help them to get the help they need. Offer to go with them to arrange support, if appropriate. Sometimes it can be daunting to take action on your own. Your support might make the difference.

If someone’s behaviour is causing you concern

Mental distress can become apparent in a number of ways. Someone’s behaviour may become erratic, they may avoid socialising or there may be signs of self-harm.

If someone’s behaviour is causing you concern but they haven’t said anything then consider telling them you’re concerned about them and what it is that is causing you concern.

Recognising early signs of mental distress, in yourself and others, can help lessen the detrimental impact it can have and can help you know when to seek help.

Further information on recognising the signs of early mental distress

If someone is willing to seek help themselves

Use this information to help them decide which service is most suitable, or to find out further information:

Help in a personal / emotional crisis

Support at Queen Mary University of London and beyond

Common Problems

If someone is unwilling to seek help themselves

See if they will let you talk to someone on their behalf. If they refuse, you can still talk to someone about your concerns without naming them.

If you feel the situation is an emergency, for example you feel there is a real risk that they may seriously harm themselves or others, you need to involve other people. 

One option is for you to contact the GP practice where your friend is registered as a patient, if you know it.  GPs have clinical responsibility for their patients which means that they have a duty to take reasonable steps to keep them safe from serious harm.   If you pass on information to them about the current crisis and risk your friend is facing, they will assess the risk and take any appropriate action.  They are unlikely to tell you anything about their patient, but they should take the details from you and take any necessary steps to assess the risk of harm to your friend.

Alternatively, if the risk of serious harm is immediately pressing, you might need to take them to your nearest Accident and Emergency Department of your local hospital, or call an ambulance. A and E, and calling an ambulance, work in just the same way for a mental health emergency as they do for a physical health emergency. When you dial 999, the emergency services operator will normally be able to help you decide which emergency service you need.  In some cases, it is more appropriate to call the Police, who can do a 'welfare check' on your friend if there are concerns about serious harm.  This can be useful if you are not with your freind at the time you are calling for help - sometimes the Police are more able to gain access to your friend if, for example, they are not answering the door. If you are in university accommodation you can contact 24-hour Queen Mary Security for help calling the emergency services.  

See Help in a Crisis for emergency contacts.

If you are concerned that someone is suicidal, read the following information and advice: Suicidal thoughts.

Staff members concerned about a student

Queen Mary staff who are worried about a student should read and follow the Students in Distress Guide which can be found in the Disability and Dyslexia Service's Mental Health section:

Supporting yourself

It is important that you don’t take on too much and feel alone and burdened by someone else’s distress. It won’t help them or you and may end up affecting your relationship.

If you need support to deal with the situation you can call one of the helplines below or you can arrange an appointment to speak in confidence with a university counsellor.

Useful resources

Student Minds recently launched a 'Look After Your Mate' campaign which aims to give students the knowledge, confidence and skills they need to support their friends. Take a look at their online guide full of practical tips on supporting a mate and student stories. 

Leeds University Student Counselling Service have also produced a useful leaflet 'Helping a Friend' which is available to download from their Common Problems page.

The Samaritans are available to talk to all day, every day. They can be contacted by telephone, email, letter or face to face in one of their local branches.
Tel: 116 123

Nightline is a confidential listening and information service run by students for students term time only.
Tel: 020 7631 0101

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