SOAS University of London

Student Advice and Wellbeing

Worried about a friend

This information is intended to be of help when you may be concerned about a friend and unsure of how to help. You may be concerned about a partner, close friend, flatmate or a more casual friend or acquaintance. They may have confided in you or they may appear to be keeping things to themselves, or they may appear to be unaware or unwilling to recognise any problem. 

If your friend has confided in you

The most important thing you can do is listen. You can also:

  • Share similar experiences or feelings you may have had without suggesting you know how they feel. You probably don’t
  • With someone close to you, let them know you care about them – and even if you are not close, let them know you are concerned
  • Suggest sources of specialist help (see below)
  • Offer to go with them, if appropriate. Sometimes it can be daunting to take action on your own, and easy to put it off. Your support might make the difference
  • Talk to someone yourself, if you are upset or worried. You don’t need to break confidence as you do not need to name your friend
  • If your friend continues to be unwilling to seek help and you are still worried …see below

If your friend hasn’t said anything but their behaviour is causing you concern

  • Tell them you’re concerned about them and what it is that is causing you concern
  • Suggest they could get some help if they are in difficulty (see below)
  • Offer to go with them if appropriate

If your friend is unwilling to seek help themselves

  • See if they will let you talk to someone on their behalf
  • If they refuse, you can still consult someone about your concerns, without breaking confidentiality, by not naming them
  • In extreme circumstances, where you think your friend or someone’s personal safety is in question you may need to break confidentiality
  • However, other than in extreme circumstances, you cannot make someone go for help if they don’t want it. You can only continue to let them know that you care and are concerned and make sure you can talk to someone yourself

Supporting yourself

  • You need to take care of yourself – by doing so you will provide a helpful model for your friend
  • Recognise that there will be times when you can’t make it alright and accept those limitations, hard though it may be

Sources of help

The best source to choose may depend on the circumstances and also on the person you or your friend feel most comfortable consulting. Confidentiality will be respected by all of the following:

  • A doctor
  • SU Welfare Vice-President (suwelfare@soas.ac.uk)
  • SOAS Welfare Officers (welfare@soas.ac.uk) for financial and practical advice
  • SOAS Counsellors (counsellors@soas.ac.uk) for personal, emotional, relationship and study related concerns
  • Chaplaincy (chaplaincy@soas.ac.uk) where a spiritual perspective is appropriate
  • Senior Residents where you or your friend live in one of the SOAS residences
  • Course/year/personal tutor/academic advisor
  • Samaritans 24 hour support (jo@samaritans.org or 0345 909090)
  • Student Nightline 6pm-8am every night in termtime (www.nightline.org.uk or 020 7631 0101)
  • Saneline for all mental health concerns (08457 678000)