Advice for friends

You may notice that your friend isn't coping well, and wonder what you can do. You want to help, but don’t know how to. We offer some suggestions here.


  • ignore your worry
  • think they will get better soon
  • think someone else will help
  • worry that you are interfering
  • think their problem is not serious
  • tell them “don't worry,” “snap out of it,” “you shouldn't feel like that,” or tell them what to do
  • take on too much yourself by giving them too much of your time
  • feel you are the only person who can help them


  • take their situation and your concern seriously
  • tell your friend that you are worried about them and would like to help
  • listen patiently – this is often more helpful than you may realise
  • ask your friend what would help (perhaps they would like you to ask how they are occasionally, give them time to talk, go out together) – together you can decide what to do
  • be realistic and open about what you can offer – it helps no-one if you stay with them every night but are clearly thinking about your own assignment
  • encourage them to ask for help if they have a practical problem, for example with their course or with finances

Where to go for help

For help with their studies, your friend could talk to:

For financial advice, your friend could contact:

If you are seriously worried about your friend's low or depressed mood, then take some action. You could tell a:

Advice about specific problems


If your friend seems unhappy, sad or depressed, here are some suggestions:

  • Spend some time with them – they may be feeling very lonely and alone.
  • Invite them to join in when a group of friends are going out – they may be feeling unwanted.
  • Suggest that you could do something together, like a walk, gentle exercise, go for coffee, or watch a film.
  • Make sure they have eaten something nutritious recently.
  • Make time for them to talk about difficult feelings (remember to be realistic about what you can offer). But do respect their need to feel cheerful, so also allow your friend to talk about something good. And don't push them if they just want to be quiet. It may help if you sometimes simply ask your friend how they are feeling.
  • If they are feeling very negative or hopeless, show that you understand that this is how they feel right now, and don't try and “make them better.” However, it may also help to remind them of some of the things they have achieved and times when they feel better.
  • Show them the Counselling website, which offers information on depression and suggestions on how to manage.
  • If appropriate, recommend they make an appointment with their doctor or at the Medical Centre, and / or an appointment with the Brookes Counselling Service.
  • Give them the website address and telephone number for Samaritans – 116 123 – a confidential helpline for people who are lonely or unhappy. If they are experiencing a personal crisis, are unable to cope and need support, they can text Shout to 85258.


If your friend seems anxious, here are some suggestions:

  • Invite your friend to talk about their worries, and support them if they need to cry.
  • Suggest some relaxing activities – listening to music, going for a walk, taking a warm bath, practical activities (like cleaning or washing, or gentle exercise). These activities can help your friend stop thinking about their worries over and over again.
  • If they are feeling panicky, ask your friend to take deep breaths, breathing more slowly, and breathing out through the mouth.
  • Help them remember their achievements and their strengths to challenge the sense of “everything is hopeless” or “I can’t cope”.
  • If your friend is going over and over the same thing, invite them to talk with you to decide how to cope with the problem. Don't tell your friend what to do, even if their solution seems the wrong one to you. Help them remember that no answer needs to be perfect. If your friend can't make any decisions, you can suggest stopping thinking for now, and doing something relaxing instead.
  • Recommend the Oxford Brookes Counselling website where they can find information and resources about:

Alcohol or drugs

Your friend is taking too much alcohol or drugs, here are some suggestions:

  • Be clear that you are worried about their use of alcohol or drugs.
  • Be serious about your concern, don't make it a joke.
  • Invite your friend to tell you if they have some worries they are trying to avoid.
  • Suggest going to activities where alcohol and drugs are not the main focus, like the cinema or theatre, out for a walk, or a cafe.
  • Limit your own intake of alcohol and drugs, so your friend does not need to “keep up,” and suggest that you both have soft drinks some of the time.
  • Don't buy your friend drink or drugs when you think they have had enough.
  • Recommend that your friend visit Frank, which is a free, confidential service for anyone worried about their drug use, or Drinkaware for information and support around drinking. 
  • If it seems appropriate, you can recommend that your friend makes an appointment with the Counselling Service or with their doctor, or they could refer themselves to Turning Point Oxfordshire for specialist support.
  • Tell your friend about the Oxford Brookes Substance Misuse Policy (PDF).