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Advice for family and friends

There are many reasons why parents, carers, friends or relatives may be worried about a student while they’re at the University of Exeter. Students can feel far away from home and you may not be sure how best to help them.

The following FAQs offer steps you can take to support your loved one in accessing support, as well as providing information about what Wellbeing Services can – and can’t – do to support you and your loved one. 

What we can do:

  • Listen to your concerns and respond/take action accordingly, where appropriate.
  • Talk through the support Wellbeing Services can offer.
  • Discuss next steps to take in supporting your loved one.
  • Explain the wide range of support available to students.
  • Request your consent to inform a student of your concerns for them.
  • Talk with a student about giving us consent to share with you.
  • With a student’s consent, we can work in partnership with all parties to provide support.

What we can’t do:

  • Discuss any personal information about students at Exeter without the student’s explicit and informed written consent – other than in exceptional circumstances as outlined in our Confidentiality statement. This is due to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), 2018, which all universities are bound to uphold. We recognise that this can be distressing and frustrating to friends and relatives, but we will still do our upmost to help while maintaining confidentiality.
  • Inform you of any actions we take without the expressed consent of your friend or relative. This sometimes means we are unable to provide you with an update on our actions. Please be assured we take all concerns shared with us seriously and will always act in the most appropriate way to support the wellbeing and safety of our students.
  • Force students to give us consent to share with their parents, friends or relatives. We do however have conversations with students about how giving consent to share can be helpful in ensuring they have support from their loved ones. Students can complete a Consent to Liaise Form at any point during their studies – including as a prospective student.

Some common concerns from parents/relatives/friends include: 

There are lots of reasons why students may reduce contact with loved ones while at University including a busy study schedule, settling into new friendships, being more involved in clubs and social activities or part-time work alongside study. You may want to try:

  • Contacting them by different means – text, Whatsapp, social media and email may be more likely to get a response than a call
  • Contacting them at a different time of day
  • Messaging about something “light” – a funny picture of their pet for example
  • Asking other close family or friends if they have heard from them

If you are very concerned, if the lack of contact is very out of character, coincides with a distressing event or a perceived change in their physical or mental health, you are welcome to contact Wellbeing Services. We will listen to your concerns and can suggest some next steps.

Samaritans suggest the following indicators can be important signs of distress, particularly when they start interfering with everyday life. If you feel your loved one is starting to display some of these signs, they may be experiencing emotional distress and benefit from some support.

  • A persistent lack of energy, and tiredness
  • A lasting feeling of restlessness and agitation
  • Regularly being tearful or overwhelmed 
  • Avoidance of or withdrawing from people
  • Not wanting to do the things they usually enjoy
  • Using drugs or alcohol to manage their feelings
  • Finding it difficult to manage everyday life

If your loved one is showing these signs, do listen and let them know you’re there for them. Encourage them to reach out for some support from their GP and to get in touch with Wellbeing Services to book a Drop-In appointment with one of our experienced practitioners.

If your friend or relative is struggling to access support, you are welcome to call Wellbeing Services. We will listen to your concerns and suggest some next steps.

Sometimes distressing events happen – either to our students, or to people around them. When distressing things happen, students may benefit from some additional support. 

If your friend or relative is living in University accommodation, they can contact their Residence Life Team. You can also encourage your loved one to book a Drop-In appointment with one of our experienced practitioners to explore a support plan.

We also keep a list of local and national services which support people in specific situations.

If your loved one feels unable to make contact with us themselves, you are welcome to contact Wellbeing Services. We will listen to your concerns and suggest some next steps.

While the majority of students stay well at University, research shows that up to 25% of students experience a mental health difficulty during their time studying.

The University of Exeter is committed to supporting students with a health codition while they study. You may find that being there for your friend or relative and listening to them is all that they need, but if you feel they need further help, you can recommend they do one or more of the following:

If they are in Exeter, they can phone the NHS Urgent Mental Health Line, available 24/7 on 0808 196 8708 (free) or 0300 555 5000. They will be able to speak with a mental health professional and get advice on the best course of care. As their friend or relative, you can also call the Urgent mental Health Line for advice on how to best get your loved one some help.

If your loved one is unable to follow the above steps, or you are very worried about a decline in their mental health, you are welcome to call Wellbeing Services. We will listen to your concerns and suggest some next steps.

We recognise the importance of timely and appropriate support when things are difficult for students.

Wellbeing Services offer a wide range of support including counselling, Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT), mental health mentoring, autistic spectrum conditions mentoring, Education Welfare support, residences support and welfare support.

We really encourage students to book an appointment with one of our experienced practitioners to create an Individual Learning Plan based on their needs. If a student is already engaged with Wellbeing Services, they can always discuss any additional support they need with the team supporting them.

We also recognise that we cannot replace the expertise of local statutory services – including GPs and specialist NHS provision – and therefore we work closely with partner agencies to support students in accessing the best and most appropriate support.

If you are concerned about the support your loved one is receiving, you are welcome to call and speak to Wellbeing Services. While we will not be able to discuss individual circumstances without consent from teh student in question, we can explain the support options available to all students at Exeter.

...with their course: Students may struggle with their course for lots of different reasons. It may be temporary or it may be linked to a specific trigger. Do encourage your friend of relative to speak to their Education Welfare Advisor if their course is impacting on their health or vice-versa. 

...with their housing situation: There are many reasons why a housing situation may be difficult – landlord disputes, challenges with housemates, location or noise disturbances. Please encourage your friend or relative to speak to the Students’ Guild Advice Unit who can offer support and advice around housing contracts and landlord issues. If the situation is impacting on their health and wellbeing, students can book a Drop-In Session with Wellbeing Services where we will work with them to create a support plan.

...with relationships with other students: Forming new relationships is an important and exciting part of the university experience but sometimes these relationships cause challenges. There is support out there:

  • In University accommodation, the Residence Life Team, with an in-depth knowledge of the support and services on offer at the University, provide support via instant message from 6pm – 9pm every night. If your loved one requires support during the day, you can email them at
  • The Speak Out Team can offer advice and support on bullying or harassment.
  • Loneliness – lots of colleges offer Buddy Schemes where new students are paired with other students in the college. The Residence Life Team also offer a range of events designed to beat isolation and build friendships, including quizzes, day trips and cookery sessions. 
  • There are several support groups that meet online and in person, including the Autistic Spectrum Conditions Social Group, the Positive Wellbeing peer support group and the OCD Support Group. There is also an Eating Difficulties Peer Support Group and a Fatigue Social Group.
  • If your loved one is being impacted by another students behaviour, they can report it to Estate Patrol on 01392 723999/ or email if they are worried about them.

If you have further questions, you are welcome to contact Wellbeing Services. We will listen to your concerns and suggest next steps.

If there is an immediate emergency and you require the police, ambulance or fire services call 999. 

In case of overdose you must seek immediate medical help by calling 999, even if your loved one does not feel unwell. The effects of an overdose can be delayed by hours (even days) and can be fatal.

If you are in Exeter you can phone the NHS Urgent Mental Health Line available 24/7 on 0808 196 8708 (free) or 0300 555 5000. You will be able to speak with a mental health professional and gain advice on the best course of care. If you’re not in Exeter, you can find your local Urgent Mental Health Line by visiting the NHS website.

Your loved one can visit the A&E Department of any hospital where they will be assessed and treated by the relevant health team. If they are is on campus, you can call Estate Patrol on 01392 723999. Estate Patrol are a mobile response service covering all aspects of security, welfare and safety for staff and students.

If you are unsure which steps to take, you are welcome to call Wellbeing Services. We will listen to your concerns and suggest some next steps.

Witnessing a friend or loved one going through a troubling time or distressing experience can be upsetting and stressful.

If you are a student at Exeter, please contact Wellbeing Services who will arrange an appointment for you to receive some support. If you live in University accommodation, you can also contact your Residence Life Team.

Mind UK have useful resources for those who are supporting someone who is struggling. 

Young Minds have a parent and carers support line for those worried about their child’s mental health, up to the age of 25. They are open 9.30am-4pm, Monday to Friday and can be called for free on 0808 802 5544

The Look After Your Mate campaign, run by Student Minds, gives students the confidence and knowledge to support their friends while 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.