Supporting a friend or family member

Seeing our children, a friend or a family member struggling with their mental health can be tough. All we want to do is help, but sometimes it can be difficult to know what to do or how to approach a conversation around how they are feeling. It can be difficult knowing exactly what to say and when to say it, but all we want to do is let them know that we are here and to support them in getting help.

How do I start a conversation?

If you are ready and comfortable having a conversation, think about when, where and what.

  • WHEN should I approach them and have a conversation?
  • WHERE should I have the conversation?
  • WHAT will I say?

It’s important to be prepared. Don’t force any conversation, be prepared to LISTEN and SUPPORT. Student Minds is a charity that supports students who are struggling with their mental health. Take a look at its guide on ‘starting a conversation’.

Looking after yourself

Although you are supporting your friend and getting them the help they need, it’s important to look after yourself in this situation too. Remember your own priorities, self-care is important and it’s vital that you are taking care of your own wellbeing. What makes YOU happy? Maybe going for a run, having a nice hot bath, walking the dog or relaxing with a glass of wine or cup of tea in front of a movie! Take time out for yourself every day. You can get more information on looking after your own wellbeing here: or

Finding support

​If your mate has been diagnosed with a mental illness or you are concerned that they are showing symptoms of a specific difficulty, finding out more about the condition and increasing your understanding of what they are going through is one of the most helpful things you can do.

However, be wary of labelling your friend. Try to keep an open frame of mind about their behaviours and underlying issues. It is not advisable to self-diagnose, so do refer back to the information we have given on having a conversation and encourage your friend to get professional support.

You can find further information on supporting a friend through specific issues here:

Support at UCB

Remember, all students have access to free, confidential support through UCB’s Health and Wellbeing Service. We offer counselling, mental health and wellbeing advice, workshops and group therapy. If your friend or family member is a student at UCB and feels comfortable accessing support through us, advise them to do so. They can access the service through self-referral via their student portal:

Alternatively, ANYONE can seek support for their mental health and wellbeing through their GP. So, if you are worried about your own mental health, or the student feels more comfortable speaking with their GP, that’s OK. There are also various support services available around the UK, check out this page for more information.

The Samaritans also offer a free service where you can talk to someone at any time, in your own way, about anything that may be getting to you. They are available 24-hours a day, 7 days a week. You can call the Samaritans for free on 116 123. Alternatively, you can drop them an e-mail on

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