Two people talking

Look out for your friends

We all want to look out for one another. Here’s how to spot the signs a friend may need your support and advice on what to do next.

Signs your friends may be struggling

Here are some indicators your friend may be going through a difficult time.

Think whether you’ve noticed any of these changes in their behaviour.

  • Have they become more withdrawn and begun to avoiding interacting with other people?​
  • Have they stopped taking care of themselves or changed their eating habits?
  • Do they seem more tired or preoccupied than usual?​
  • Have you noticed a change in how they speak (rapidly, incoherently or slowly) or what they are saying (“I cannot go on like this”) either in person or online?
  • Have they cried a lot recently?
People walking on campus

Be a supporter not a fixer

If you think a friend may be struggling it’s natural to want to fix their problems. Instead, take time to step back, listen and understand them. Here are some tips.

Start a conversation

It may be difficult to let a friend know you’re concerned. So make sure you choose a quiet environment where you won’t be interrupted or rushed, and where you both feel comfortable.

Don't push the topic

Your concerns may come as a surprise. If they don’t want to talk about it, just let them know you’re there to listen if they want to talk in future. And remember that just showing concern and being a good friend can really help someone to feel valued and supported.

Be an active listener

OARS is a good way to remember the key points. O is for asking open questions. A is for providing affirmations, which are encouraging statements that recognise your friend’s strengths. R is for reflection, which means restating and clarifying what you've heard your friend say in the conversation. And S is for summarising, or going back over the key points.

Support change

This means helping your friend to explore their motivation to change and building their confidence and plans to achieve it.

Signpost and seek help

You are not alone in supporting your friend through a difficult time. There are teams and services available to help. Point them towards the ‘You’re not alone’ section of this site where they can find plenty of options to suit them. You can also find more advice through Student Minds.