A guide to help you support a friend or peer in difficulty

This guide provides supportive information to students who are concerned about the mental health and wellbeing of other students. It is particularly useful for students who also have a role supporting other students. It will help you identify when a friend or peer may be in difficulty and explain the support available.

 If you are a parent/carer of a student you can find more information on the support available at the university on our FAQ for family and friends page

Are you concerned about a friend or peer studying at the university?

The university encourages students to form positive, caring relationships underpinned by its values of respect and inclusivity. It is proud of the many students who provide welfare support to their friends and peers in personal, academic, and voluntary roles. 

It is important to the university that students are supported. It is equally important to ensure that the help students provide to others does not step into taking on caring responsibilities, which could undermine their own student experience and studies.

We want students to enjoy their studies and university experience, but the likelihood is that at some point, life may become difficult. Being able to access help and support is key to a successful university experience.

How do I respond to a friend who asks for support?

Our health and wellbeing is something which varies and fluctuates throughout our lives. We encourage our community to be proactive about their health and wellbeing. You can find lots of resources and information to support you and help you stay healthy on our HealthyU webpages.

Visit HealthyU



Tips when supporting a friend or peer

  • Don’t be afraid to ask, it shows you care about them.
  • Encourage the person you are supporting to be independent, so they have control.
  • Provide an open and non-judgemental space with no distractions.
  • Keep questions open ended and listen attentively. If they ask questions, or for advice, try not to provide answers and guidance you do not feel confident, or comfortable to give. It may be useful to repeat what they have said back to them to ensure you have understood what they have said.
  • If appropriate talk about wellbeing and the importance of self-care. You may want to include healthy eating, sleep, exercise, rest and relaxation etc.
  • Only offer support you feel confident and comfortable providing. Many things will affect the amount of support we feel able to give - our relationship with the person, our own personal circumstances, etc. It is not your responsibility to provide help. If you are not the right person to support your friend, you can help them by identifying who they can speak to.
  • If your friend asks to talk to you in complete confidence, try not to promise this. Assure them you will keep their confidence as much as possible and will not share what they say with friends and peers, but do not offer complete confidence. They may share difficult information with you that is distressing and/or worrying that you may need to share with appropriate staff to protect them, others, and yourself. 
  • Provide information and signpost. The HealthyU webpages are a good place to start, you can find information about support at the university, the students’ union as well as support in the local community. 
  • Finally, know your limits and look after yourself. Supporting people who are struggling can impact negatively on our own mental health. If you need to, get help and support for yourself. The NurturingU webpage sets out some of the things you can do to take care of yourself.


Logo with letter i in circle

If someone is struggling it is important to recognise that your role is not to advise or provide care, but to listen and provide support that encourages them to access other welfare support services. Support your friend to feel confident about seeking help, rather than do this for them.




Help available at the university

All staff play a part in supporting the welfare of students but there are staff with specific roles which include supporting student welfare and wellbeing.


Personal (academic) Tutors/Personal Guides

Encourage your friend to speak to their Personal Tutor/Guide, especially if their problems are caused by, or are affecting, their studies. If a Personal Tutor/Guide is not able to help directly, they will be able to suggest others who can. If you are seeking help for a friend and need some advice, you can talk to your own Personal Tutor/Guide about the situation.

Find out more

Support and Wellbeing Team

The Support and Wellbeing Team work alongside Personal Tutors/Guides, Supervisors, and other university support services. They can help students find the right service, even if students are unsure where to go. They also offer advice on polices and processes such as extenuating circumstances. They are a good point of support for students who are not able, or comfortable, speaking to their Personal Tutor/Guide.

Encouraging a friend to speak to their Support and Wellbeing Officer can be a good place to start. If they are reluctant to do this and you are seeking help on their behalf, or you need to raise your concerns for their welfare, you should contact the Support and Wellbeing Officer in your school who will be able to pass this on to appropriate wellbeing staff who will be able to reach out and offer support. 

Visit Support and Wellbeing

Residential Experience Team (ResX)

Students living in university supported accommodation can access support from the Residential Experience team. The team can help with a wide range of situations that your friend may be encountering. You can encourage your friend to contact ResX directly but if they are not able to do so you can share your concern with them yourself. The team cover wellbeing concerns and communal living challenges and will deal with concerns delicately without judgement and work out the best way to support your friend. They can help your friend access University or community support for the issue. They liaise regularly with a variety of departments within the University so will know the right team to help! 

Email: or call 0115 7487600 option 2, Monday to Friday 9am until midnight, Saturday and Sunday 5pm until midnight. 

Visit the ResX web pages for more information on the team and to see their events calendar. 

Visit ResX

Community Engagement Team

Provide help for students living off-campus, particularly if the issues are affecting their home or off-campus community.

Visit Community Engagement

Specialist Wellbeing Services – Counselling and Mental Health Advisory Services

Our Specialist Wellbeing Services are here to support students when emotional and psychological needs are more complex. They are a referral only service consisting of two specialist departments:  

The University Counselling Service offer a range of services including groups and workshops, self-help resources and individual counselling. The service is free and confidential to students and staff.

Your friend can be referred through to the service by speaking to their Support & Wellbeing Officer, ResX, Disability Team or Report and Support. 

The counselling service is not an emergency service, so if it is more urgent and immediate help is needed, contact another service (see section below on Security).

The Mental Health Advisory Service supports students with significant mental health problems. Mental Health Advisors are mental health professionals employed by the university to offer specialist advice and support.

If you think your friend requires support from this service, they will need to be referred by a member of staff.

The service runs a duty service responding to urgent and crisis situations in the working week, 9am-5pm. You may be contacted by the team if you have a raised a serious concern about the welfare of a friend. They will offer support to your friend and may also provide advice to you about the situation.

If supporting your friend is affecting your own mental health and wellbeing, make sure you also get the support you need.

Find out more

Report & Support

The Report and Support platform offers students, staff and the wider community the opportunity to tell the University about incidents that involve staff or students. Information received by the team through Report and Support is triaged and contact is either then made by the team, or passed to the most appropriate team who can give advice around support available and options for reporting. 

The team also have Specialist Pratitioners with experience of supporting people who have experienced Sexual Assault or Domestic Abuse. 

Visit Report and Support   


Chaplains support students and staff of any faith or none.

The team are part of the wellbeing support network. They provide support to students in difficulty and have experience in helping students with loss and bereavement, as well as with spiritual and faith guidance questions.

You or your friend may find it easier to speak to a Chaplain, as a first point of call, especially if you have a faith which is important to you.

Oasis (A floor, Portland Building) is a safe space. It is open for anyone to drop in from 9am-5pm, Monday to Friday. If you want to chat to a team member you can contact one of the chaplains via their website to set up a good time to meet.

Visit chaplaincy


The university has a 24-hour security service available throughout the year. Security control are a central point of contact for anyone who has a serious concern about the welfare of a student, especially outside of normal working hours. The team are both first aid trained, and mental health first aid trained.

You can contact the security team via the control room on 0115 951 3013 or in an emergency, on 0115 951 8888.

If you need urgent help off-campus you should contact the emergency services via 999.

Visit security

Students' Union Advice

Students’ Union Advice offer information, advice and representation on all aspects of student welfare and education, such as financial, housing and course issues.

Call 0115 846 8730 or email to get in touch.

Visit UoNSU


Nottingham Nightline is a student-run anonymous and confidential listening and information service. It operates every night during term-time from 7pm-8am, as well as providing a 24-hour service during the exam period.

Call on 0115 951 4985 or email nightlineanon​

Welfare officers (welcome, network, clubs and societies)

Every SU society and sports club has a welfare officer who receives training on welfare support and are able to signpost members to support.

Local support GP (Doctor)

If your friend is struggling with their mood encourage them to speak to their GP. If your friend starts to experience suicidal thoughts, they should see their GP urgently or you should seek advice on their behalf. There is Cripps Health Centre on University Park campus and Orchard Practice located in Kegworth near to the Sutton Bonington campus.

There are a range of NHS and voluntary services.

View Health Service information





What can I do if:

My friend is struggling to settle into their hall?
Encourage them to speak to the Residential Experience team.
My friend keeps waking me up in the night for someone to talk to?
Encourage them to ring Nightline (0115 951 4985) and seek medical advice if they are struggling to sleep on a regular basis.
My friend is struggling to make other friends and has become very dependent on me?
Encourage your friend to join a society, club or take up volunteering. There is a diverse range of opportunities, and it is very likely there will be a society they will enjoy.
How can I help my friend access information about how to improve their mood and wellbeing?

There are a range of resources available on our wellbeing pages and UniHub:

Visit HealthyU     

Visit UniHub   

Togetherall – a free digital mental health service available to students – you can access using your university email. 

Visit Togetherall

I am worried my friend is being bullied?

Encourage them to report the harassment to the university, or if necessary, you can report on their behalf. Students and staff can report anonymously or ask to speak to an advisor. If the behaviour is happening in halls supported by our ResX team they can also speak to the ResX team about this, and/or security/reception staff in the halls. 

Visit Report and Support

My friend has become depressed and withdrawn?

They can speak to a member of staff and/or their GP. If they are unwilling or unable to seek help and you are worried that their mental health is getting worse, or the situation is undermining your own wellbeing, you should speak to a member of staff.

See help available at university

My friend is barely leaving their room and I can’t get them to come out and seek help?
If you are in university accommodation, speak to the Residential Experience team. If you are living off-campus in other accommodation, please contact a Support and Wellbeing Officer.
My friend has stopped attending lectures and I am worried they will drop out?
They can contact their Personal Tutor/Guide or Support and Wellbeing Officer. If they are not able to do this, you can speak to a Support and Wellbeing Officer yourself who can arrange for someone to reach out to your friend.
I am worried that my friend is self-harming?
They can access help from their GP and access support from voluntary organisations such as Harmless ( If you are worried about their safety and welfare, and/or the impact this is having on you, you should also seek help from a Support and Wellbeing Officer. If the student is living in university supported accommodation, you should also contact the Residential Experience team.
I am worried my friend may have an eating disorder?

Encourage your friend to speak to their GP who will be able to refer them to specialist support. If you are concerned you can speak to a member of staff.

See help available at university

My friend has started behaving bizarrely and is saying and doing very odd things?

If a friend starts to behave in a way that seems irrational, they may be experiencing an episode of psychosis. Behaviour can include hearing and responding to voices, hallucinations, delusional thoughts (especially paranoia) and dramatic changes in mood. If you are worried that this is happening to a friend, it is important to get advice as it may be difficult for your friend to understand that they have become unwell. You can access advice from a member of staff who may then refer your concerns on to the university Mental Health Advisory Service. Support is also available from the on-campus security team or via 999 in an emergency off campus.

Help available at university

Support in an emergency    

Health services for international students

I am worried that my friend is drinking too much/taking drugs

You can get information about where to access support and advice on the HealthyU drug and alcohol web pages.

You and your friend can also access specialist support.

If you live in Nottingham visit

If you live in Nottinghamshire visit

If you feel your friend’s behaviour is putting you or others at risk, you should seek advice from a member of staff.

See help available at university

I am worried my friend is not safe

If you think your friend is at risk of, or experiencing domestic abuse (within or outside the university community), please encourage your friend to seek help urgently, or seek help on their behalf, from security, the Police and/or specialist services.

Find out more about domestic abuse

You can also advise your friend to use the Report and Support platform to let us know what's happened/happening. The team have specialist Practitioners trained in supporting people experiencing domestic abuse. Completing the form does not mean you/they are making a formal report to the university, but will mean they can get support and advice about reporting options. The team are always led by the person in how they want to proceed, except in circumstances where there are safeguarding concerns.

Visit Report and Support

I am worried my friend has been sexually assaulted

Specialist services and support can be found on the ‘Let’s be Clear on Consent’ webpage.

Visit 'let's be clear on consent' page

The university has a dedicated team of qualified Sexual Violence Liaison Officers (SVLOs) to support students who have experienced sexual harassment and or violence either recently or in the past. More information about SVLOs can be found online at: 

SVLO service

You can access the SVLO service via Report and Support and including your contact details. This is not making a formal report to the university, it is to enable you to access the support you need to make an informed decision on what to do next.

Any concerns can be reported by you or your friend.

Visit Report and Support

I am worried that my friend is suicidal?

Help your friend by suggesting they see their GP urgently. If it is out of hours, you can help them access support at Accident and Emergency, where they can see a specialist from the Department of Psychological Medicine. If your friend refuses to accept help and you are concerned for their safety, ring Security if you are on campus (0115 951 8888) or the Emergency Services (999) if you are off campus. If you are worried, but not immediately concerned, ring Security on 0115 951 3013 for advice.

More information about suicide and support available can be found here:

More information about suicide and support

Emergency Support

I am worried about my friend, but they insist that they are fine
If your concerns are not urgent, contact your Support and Wellbeing Officer.
I am worried my friend is experiencing financial difficulty

The university finance department will discuss the options available for students facing an unexpected financial hardship.

There are useful links to other information such as budgeting on their webpage:

Financial support

The Student's Union Advice Service are also able to offer advice to students facing financial difficulty.

Student's Union Advice 

My friend is an international student and is finding it hard to adjust to living and studying in the UK.

If your friend is finding it difficult and it has started to impact on their health and wellbeing, suggest they talk to their Personal Tutor/Guide or Support and Wellbeing Officer. There is lots of information to support international students including an international student welcome kit that can be found here. If your friend is in one of our halls that our ResX team support they can also reach out to the team.

International student toolkit 




Remember friends are often the first person we approach when we are having a difficult time. Supporting a friend can impact on our own health and wellbeing. Look after yourself in this situation. Remember your own priorities, self-care is important and it’s vital that you look after your own wellbeing. Student Minds has produced a guide which will help support you to look out for your mates, from starting a conversation to navigating the student journey. 

Visit Student Minds interactive guide

The signs below are to help you consider if your friend may be in difficulty but not to diagnose or identify their potential problems.


Signs a friend may be struggling with their mental health

  • Behaving differently than they normally do
  • Crying or tearful
  • Problems sleeping - usually sleep is less and broken, but sometimes can be sleeping too much
  • Changes to appetite - usually a loss of appetite but can also be overeating
  • Loss of concentration and poor memory
  • Feeling very negative about themselves, their studies, the world around them
  • Becoming socially isolated and withdrawn
  • Feeling anxious or having panic attacks
  • Drinking too much alcohol or using drugs
  • Change in appearance - especially self-neglect
  • Bizarre behaviour and not making sense
  • Paranoia

Signs a friend may be experiencing domestic violence

  • Unexplained bruising and signs of possible physical violence
  • Loss of confidence/change in behaviour
  • They have become isolated from friends and family
  • They have stopped attending lectures and are not completing work
  • They receive high number of messages and calls from their partner when not together and constantly check their phone, must respond immediately and check in
  • They seem very controlled by their partner
  • Their partner may put them down and humiliate them in front of others
  • Limited or no access to finances

 Updated: June 2024