What can I do to help?
- Get immediate help. If the person is in immediate danger, or seriously injured, call 999 (or 112 from a mobile).
- Find a safe space. If an incident has just happened, try and find somewhere the person feels safe. If you are at the University you can call University Security on 01603 592222 or go to your nearest University building and ask someone to phone Security for you.
- If you are in UEA Accommodation? Call your Duty Student Services Resident (SSR) who can respond from 6pm to 7am during weekdays and over the entire weekend.
- Tell the person you are concerned. If they are not at immediate risk, encourage them to get support and consider helping them to make the initial contact.
- Take care of yourself. It is important that we all look after our health and wellbeing. If you’ve heard or seen something distressing, or if you want to speak to somebody about your concerns, there are people and services available to support you. The University services can provide advice and information for staff and students.
- Listen. Just taking the time to listen to someone and talk about what has happened can help. These six active listening tips might help you support them. Published on Oct 4, 2015 Based on the Samaritans guidelines for active listening
- Give options. When they have finished talking ask them if they are okay to talk through some possible options and next steps.
- Mind Mental Health Charity. Mind has useful resources for helping someone else.
- Report to the University and get Support. Students and staff can report an incident using the University’s Report and Support system. You can also report on someone else’s behalf, but you need to have consent of the person you are reporting for. You can choose to do this anonymously or you can request support from an adviser. If you choose to talk to an adviser they will be able to talk through the options and support available to you, in confidence.
- University Procedure. If you choose to make a formal complaint to the University about a student or member of staff an adviser can explain the procedures and next steps.
- Student Life Adviser. An adviser can talk through the University's procedures, how to make a complaint and what support is available, in confidence.
- Residential Life Team. Whether it is your neighbourhood Student Services Resident (SSR) or the Duty SSR, if you are living in UEA residences there is someone to talk to.
- The uea(su) Advice Service. A free, confidential, impartial service where an adviser can talk through University procedures, what options are available and help you complain if you are unhappy with the process.
- Human Resource Adviser. An adviser can talk through the options available to you if the incident involved a staff member at UEA.
- Employee Assistance Programme. This free confidential 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year service is available to all UEA students and staff. The programme offers confidential support independent from UEA, with professional consultation, counselling, information, resources and referrals to services in your local area.
- Extenuating Circumstances. If you feel your studies have been affected by what has happened you can consider applying for extenuating circumstances.
- Find out what support is available on a number of different incidents.
Mental Health and Wellbeing
1 in 4 people are affected by a mental health problem in any year and it is estimated that around 1 in 5 people has contemplated suicide or self-harm.
- Find out more on the support available for mental health and wellbeing.
- Take care of yourself. It’s important that you take care of yourself. If you’ve heard something distressing or if something is troubling you, the University's Student Services Wellbeing Service can support you. The University’s Talking Therapies Service offers confidential help and is open to students.
Advice about supporting someone else
When a friend or someone else you care about is causing you concern it’s natural to want to help and sometimes to feel anxious or unsure what to do or say. Here are some of the many situations students can find themselves in:
- has asked you to keep a secret but you feel it is too much to cope with
- has changed a lot recently in appearance, behaviour or personality
- has stopped going out or talking about themselves or attending lectures
- seems to be on a self-destruct mission
- has told you they do not want to live anymore, or
- is causing you concern in some other way.
Here are some suggestions to help you to respond appropriately and to manage your own anxiety about the situation.
Approaching your friend
Sometimes it is difficult to know what to do or say to a friend you are concerned about. You might worry about the consequences: for example, you might fear that talking about your concerns will make the situation worse (although this is very unlikely), or that your friend will think you are interfering or nagging, or become angry with you.
Choose a time when you are on your own with your friend, preferably in a quiet, private place. Somewhere where you feel comfortable. People can feel most comfortable on their own territory so a time when you are together in your friend’s room might offer a suitable opportunity. Try to make sure that you are not disturbed, and don’t forget to put your mobile in silent mode.
Gently tell them that you are concerned about them and explain what it is you are worried about. If it is something you find difficult or sensitive to talk about or you fear how your friend may react, let them know this:
“I don’t quite know how to talk to you about this, and I don’t want you to think I am having a go or anything, but I care about you and am really worried about you.”
If your friend wants to talk
Try to make sure your friend has your full attention and listen carefully to what he or she is saying. It’s really easy to interrupt someone because you want to offer reassurance and make them feel better, but try to hold back and focus completely on what they are saying.
Sharing similar feelings or experiences can help your friend not to feel alone, but try to avoid saying “I know how you feel” (as you probably don’t), or “the same thing happened to me” (no experience can be exactly the same for different people), or going into long stories of how your situation mirrors theirs. This can leave someone feeling silenced or less important as it can seem as if your experience is as or more important than theirs.
You could let your friend know how you feel about what they are telling you:
“I feel sad/frustrated/annoyed by what is happening/what has happened to you.”
This lets him or her know that you have been listening to what they have been saying.
Ask your friend what they think would be helpful or what they think they need. It’s important that they keep as much control over their life as they can, so try to avoid making decisions for them based on what you think they need. Try not to tell your friend what you would do in their situation.
You could remind your friend that there is professional help available and you could give him or her information on the support services available. You might then wait a few days before you ask them how they are feeling and if they have talked to anyone about their problems or concerns. If they haven’t, you could explore with them any reasons that might be holding them back. You could also offer to go with your friend to a first appointment for moral support.
Offering support yourself
- Stay calm. Try to keep as calm as possible. Appearing anxious can sometimes increase the anxiety of the person you’re with.
- Avoid feeling responsible. Remember too that you are not responsible for another’s actions, thoughts, feelings or beliefs even when that person is very close to you; what you are responsible for is your own actions, thoughts, feelings and beliefs. None of us really have the power to make other people think, feel or act in a particular way.
- Set limits. You need to think about, and then decide, how much time, energy and attention you are able to give. This is not a reflection of how much you care - it is about making sure that you look after your own needs too. It won’t help your friend or you if you take on too much and then find you can’t cope or that you begin to feel resentful. Many people in distress worry about overburdening others. If you set boundaries and limits and stick to them, this may actually help your friend believe he or she isn’t being a burden to you or taking up too much of your time. For example, if your friend calls and you are just about to go out, let him or her know you can only talk for, say, 5 minutes, but then arrange another time when you will be free to talk or meet for longer.
- Say when you feel uncomfortable. If your friend does something that makes you feel uncomfortable, for example, sends you distressing texts and then doesn’t answer when you return their call, explain calmly the effect this has on you: for example, increasing your concern, or making you panic or feel frustrated. Always try to take ownership of your own feelings by saying “I feel…” rather than “You make me feel…” This latter might make your friend feel that you blame them for how you feel.
- Remember you have a choice. You have a choice about the level of support or help your offer to a friend. Before you offer to be a key source of support for a friend in difficulties reflect on whether you really do have the skills, experience, personal resources and time to do this. It can be more damaging to offer a level of support that you cannot sustain than never to have offered it at all. You are still being a good friend if you show that you really care, and say that you don’t have the experience and knowledge to help them in the way that you feel that they need to be helped. You can offer what you know you can provide – for example going to see them or going out with them – but suggest that more professional advice would be appropriate too.
- Looking after yourself. If you decide that you do want to provide significant ongoing support for your friend, make sure you continue to look after yourself, both physically and emotionally. Take time out for yourself to do the stuff you enjoy, either on your own or with other friends. Try not to feel guilty about having a good time when your friend is unhappy: you are still entitled to have fun. Keep up with the activities and relationships that are important to you. If you can, involve others so that your friend has a support team and is not just relying on you. If your friend insists on keeping things a secret between the two of you, try to explain the effect this is having on you: “I know that you find it difficult to trust people, but I am finding it quite stressful being the only person who knows, and I wonder if there is at least one of our other friends we could tell?” If helping your friend makes you feel anxious and upset, don’t hesitate to seek professional advice and support.
- If your friend doesn’t want to talk. If your friend really doesn’t want to talk when you raise your concerns, let them know that you are there for them if they do want to talk at another time. You could ask if there is anything else you can do to help apart from listening or talking, such as spending time studying, socialising, or doing something practical with or for them. You could ask if there is someone else they might find it easier to talk to, such as another friend, a family member, their Adviser, a GP, or someone in Student Services.
Remind them of the range of services available to all students at UEA. If you remain very concerned but don’t know what else to do, seek help and advice for yourself from one of the services.
Trust is a very important part of friendship, and no-one would willingly betray that trust in normal circumstances. If you feel that you do need to talk to someone else about your concerns, it is often possible to discuss them without revealing your friend’s name or personal details.
However, if it becomes necessary to give personal details to move forward, you might feel able to ask your friend for his or her permission first. If they refuse you may need to make it clear that you are so concerned about them that you feel that you must speak to someone else, if only to help you manage your own feelings. In the end you need to trust your own judgement on this, and do what you think is best. It may help you to talk over your concerns with someone in Student Services. If you do this, you can be sure that Student Services (or People and Culture for staff) will not pass on any information you give them, or contact your friend, unless they believe there is a serious risk of harm to the student concerned or others, and they would always endeavour to discuss this with you first. If you request for Student Services to reach out to your friend, they can do this, however they would need to inform your friend of who raised the concerns.
Responding to emergencies
If you’re not sure how serious something of a mental health or physical health nature is the NHS 111 telephone line might be a useful resource. A trained medical adviser will be able to offer guidance.
If you become concerned about your friend’s immediate safety, or the safety of others or yourself, you should contact their GP, or call for an ambulance and/or the police, even if you do not have your friend’s permission to do so.
If your friend has taken an overdose of tablets, or harmed themselves in another serious manner, you should make sure that they get straight to the Accident and Emergency Department. If you are in any doubt call 999 for an ambulance. If you are on the University campus, call Security on 01603 592222, tell them where you and your friend are, and ask them to call an ambulance for you – they will be able to direct the ambulance to the right part of the campus.