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Advice for Family and Friends

The transition to University can be difficult for students for several reasons. It is likely that students will face many new challenges during their time at University, such as:

  • Academic pressure
  • Independent living
  • Making new friends
  • Sharing accommodation with other students

Whilst many students will have begun to settle into University life by the end of their first term, some students will require some additional support. This page offers advice and information for those who have any concerns about a relative, friend or housemate at the University of Exeter.  


All personal information students disclose to us will not be released outside of Wellbeing Services, including services outside of the University, without the student’s explicit and informed written consent (other than in exceptional circumstances as outlined in our confidentiality policy). This means we are unable to provide family or friends with any information about a student, including confirming or disconfirming whether the student is known to the service, if they have not consented to us doing so beforehand.

To see our full Confidentiality and Data Protection Policies, please click here.

What can I do?

You may find that being there and listening to your relative or friend is all they need at this moment in time. See the below section ‘Looking after someone else’ if you intend to continue supporting a relative/friend experiencing mental health difficulties. However, if you do not feel able to support them, or you believe that they need further support, you can recommend that they do one or more the following:

The NUS student survey carried out in 2013 found that a high number of student suffering with mental health problems did not access any support from the University. People are often worried about the stigma attached to having a mental health problem. In the last student evaluation that was carried out by the University of Exeter Wellbeing Centre the majority of students who accessed support said that the support offered helped them to stay at University and improved their wellbeing. So, we would really encourage you to talk to your friend about accessing support through Wellbeing Services. You could always show them the website or go with them to make the first appointment if they feel daunted by the idea of accessing support.

Should your friend or relative need urgent assistance you, or the student, can contact Estate Patrol on 01392 723999. In an emergency please call 999. See our urgent support page for further advice.

Looking after someone else

If your friend or relative has shared their difficulties with you then try and be as empathetic as possible; imagine what it must be like for them. This may be difficult if they have had very different experiences to you, however it is important to try and understand what they are going through.

We would recommend looking at the resources below:

  • The Mind website has a number of excellent booklets that give information and advice on how to support someone with a mental health difficulty. There are also specific booklets relating to a wide number of mental health problems.
  • The Look After Your Mate campaign, run by Student Minds, aims to give more students the confidence and knowledge to support their friends whilst at University. You can download their Look After Your Mate Guide which provides tips and information for supporting someone who is experiencing mental health difficulties.  

Looking after yourself

Witnessing a friend or loved one going through a troubling time can be stressful and upsetting. We are happy to offer confidential support and advice, which can help to clarify your concerns and decide how best to respond. A discussion with a member of the Wellbeing Services team can also help you to keep in mind your own limits and to know when to stop intervening.