Advice for a concerned parent, guardian or friend
Information for anyone concerned about a family member – perhaps a child – or a friend who is studying at university with us.
You might have found this page because you've noticed a significant change in someone's behaviour.
This could be a lack of motivation, a change in their level of engagement with their course (for example, not working enough or working far too hard), or other choices that the person is making which you feel may not be in their best interests.
How you can help
The first thing we would mention is that it is okay, and often very helpful, for you to tell the person that you are concerned about them. It can be very reassuring just to be reminded that you care, and you may be able to give a different perspective on a situation.
It can also be helpful to:
- Promote a step-by-step approach. Encouraging someone to jot down all the things that are on their mind on a piece of paper, and helping them to decide what the priorities are, can help to make things seem less overwhelming.
- Encourage spending time with others. Remind them it can take time to build contacts and connections, but that these are important. Perhaps suggest that they get involved in student activities, try one of our numerous sport, exercise and recreation options, or simply ask another student on their course to have a coffee. Just trying 1 small thing can make a big difference to how we feel.
- Provide reassurance. Let them know it is understandable to feel nervous or worried about new people, places and situations.
- Ask them to consider how they have coped with similar situations in the past, or ask them to consider what they might advise someone else in their situation to do.
If you are the parent, guardian or carer of someone who is studying with us, we understand that you want your family member to feel able to achieve their best. Coming to university can be a big adjustment, both for them and for you.
Students will have a variety of thoughts and feelings, particularly during times of transition. For example, the early weeks at university or when moving from one year to the next. This is quite natural. Transitions and changes evoke many different reactions.
Like anyone else, students can encounter personal or work-related challenges. It is not uncommon for students to have periods when they feel homesick and unsure about the choices they have made or find it difficult as they adjust to university life without their usual support networks close by.
Support available to your friend or family member
If they have not already done so, it might be helpful to encourage your friend or family member to:
- Talk to their academic tutor or other staff within their academic school, especially if they are having any difficulties relating to their course.
- Self-refer for specialist support from our Wellbeing team, which provides specialist mental health and emotional support to York St John students. Students can complete the form to self-refer for wellbeing support anytime 24/7, and they will hear back from the team within 2 working days about the next steps. Even if someone is feeling quite distressed or anxious, completing the self-referral form can help them to know they are doing something constructive and helpful to seek support.
We also have a range of other specialist services that provide specific types of support and advice to students. These include welfare advice, funding advice, chaplaincy, sport and exercise, and advice about living in University-managed accommodation.
Our Students' Union is also an invaluable source of information about social activities, societies, sports groups, and volunteering opportunities.
If you are seriously concerned about a person's mental health
If you have serious concerns, please encourage your friend or family member to seek support. In this situation, you can:
- Encourage your friend or family member to self-refer to our wellbeing team at the University.
- Check whether they have registered with the University's Student Health Centre or with another GP or medical practice. Suggest that they speak to their GP or doctor about how they are feeling.
- Share with them the contact details of urgent or emergency support services to make sure they have these, just in case they should ever need them in the future.
- Contact our Security team, by telephoning 01904 876 444, if the student is in serious difficulty somewhere on campus or in University-managed accommodation.
Remember that if, at any point, someone is at imminent risk of life-threatening harm, the first thing to do is contact emergency services by telephoning 999. It may still be helpful to follow the actions described above, but, in these circumstances, telephone emergency services first.
Sharing information about your friend or family member
As a University, we are limited in what information we would be able to share with you about one of our students, even when the student you are concerned about is a family member or close friend of yours. This is to protect our students' privacy, make sure we are working in accordance with data protection legislation and also because it can discourage students from talking to support services in the University if they feel that their information will be shared beyond the University. This extends to confirming the student status of an individual. In most circumstances, we cannot confirm to a third party whether a person is a current student or not. We realise that this may be frustrating, but hope you appreciate the reasons for this.
If you contact us about concerns you have about your friend or family member, we may be able to provide you with some general advice about the kinds of support available to students, which you can then share. In some circumstances, we may be able to contact the student and let them know that you have been in touch with us.
Looking after your own wellbeing
If you are a student here yourself, perhaps concerned about a friend or flatmate, make sure that you look after your own wellbeing when supporting your friend.
Being a friend to someone – for example, offering to take them out for a coffee, and giving them a chance to talk about how they are feeling – can be very helpful for someone. However, you should not feel pressured to start offering levels of support which you are not qualified to provide. This is where you need to make sure you are encouraging your friend to access the specialist mental health support services, both inside and outside the University, which are there to help them.
If you are a student who is finding it difficult to support a friend, remember that our support services are here as much for you as for your friend and you are welcome to self-refer to our wellbeing team for support yourself.