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Supporting Others

When a friend is going through a difficult time or struggling with how they are feeling it can sometimes be hard to know what to do. Approaching a friend who you are concerned about can be daunting and you may be worried about the consequences. For example, you might be worried you will make the situation worse (which is unlikely), or your friend will think you're interfering and become angry with you. These feelings are all normal, but ultimately your friend will appreciate the concern you have for them, as it shows you care. 

Young Minds have a whole page dedicated on offering advice on how you can support your friends if you are concerned and how to look after yourself.

It is important when supporting a friend, and especially one who is another student at St Mary's, that you are aware of what options your friend has in regards to reporting to the university and accessing support:

In some cases, when you have approached a friend with your concerns, they may disclose an incident to you.

Receiving a disclosure

It is normal for people close to you to reach out for advice and support or to be a shoulder to cry on. When it's involving something they have experienced, such as bullying, harassment, a hate crime, or their experience with sexual misconduct, it may feel like a big responsibility. It is normal to be concerned about saying the wrong thing, or being mindful that something they may say could be a personal trigger for you. It is important to remember that if someone is coming to you, it's because they trust you. There are lots of ways you can help someone in this situation.

Disclosures can come in many forms; it can be something said but then played off as a joke, a story that someone begins to tell you but doesn't finish because it 'doesn't matter', or they could ask you a direct question. 

The most important thing to remember is that you are not expected to be a specialist in what they are telling you, but the way you respond to a disclosure can make a difference in them seeking help or support from professionals. 


Every experience and disclosure will be different, and there isn't one correct way to respond. There are many things you can do to help in this situation.

  • Find a safe space - if an incident has just happened, try your best to find somewhere where the person and you feel safe.
  • Get immediate help if the person is in danger - if the person disclosing is in danger, or seriously injured, call 999 (if you are on campus, you can also call Security on 020 8240 4335 or 020 8240 4060 to reach their emergency line).
  • Listen - listening to someone is so powerful. It shows you care and talking to them about what has just happened can help. This short video based on the Samaritans guidelines on being a good active listener may help. When someone is disclosing, there may be long pauses or silences. Don't try and fill them at first, the person may be thinking about how to phrase something, be patient and let them tell their story in their own words.
  • Express your concern - if the person isn't at immediate risk, you can encourage them to get support and offer to help them make initial contact. When responding, make sure to continuously do it in a way that leaves control with them and what happens next. Present the options of support and let them decide what they want to do by asking them what they need or want. Someone may not make the same decision you would, however, they need to be the one who decides the next steps and what is best for them. Don't tell them what they should do.
  • Provide information - ensure that the person is aware of what support is available. See our pages on internal support and external support to assist you with this. Explain that anyone can report a crime to the police by calling 999 (or 101 for non-emergencies) or attending a local police station and also online. If they have expressed that they want to report what happened to the university, you can show them their reporting options.
  • If they are unsure about their options, you can suggest that they speak to Student Services for further advice about their reporting options or the support that is available to them.
  • Take care of yourself - listening and responding to someone's disclosure can be distressing. Familiarise yourself with the internal support and external support pages so that if you need to speak to someone about how you are feeling, you know who to contact.
  • If you require support or advice yourself, you can also make contact with Student Services, either for advice in how best to support your friend (which can be discussed anonymously) or to access support yourself.

You can log an incident you have been told about through the anonymous reporting system