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Advice and Support

You can find out about all the support available to students in Cambridge in our Support in Cambridge section.

None of us are completely consistent in our behaviour or emotions, but time spent at university can be one of particular personal change. During our years here we all change, to a greater or lesser extent, in the ways in which we express ourselves, as well as our habits and routine. In the context of these wider changes, it can be difficult to distinguish between the body and mind's natural short-term responses, and potentially more serious conditions. It is estimated that one in four people have mental health conditions at some point during their life: it could be your team mate, your partner, your best friend, your lecturer or you yourself. This section provides information about sources of support, including how to support a friend who is experiencing a mental health condition.

Support doesn't have to come from a professional counsellor: often open discussion with a close friend or family member can be very comforting. There are, however, a number of support networks around the university which may help.

Every college has a student Welfare Officer on their JCR or MCR. You can contact them for information or just a chat: either way they'll be happy to help. Many committees also have Women's Officers and LBGT reps, who can provide information about specific issues. Your College Tutor or Graduate Tutor is also there to provide non-academic and academic support, and most are extremely supportive. If for any reason you do not get on with your Tutor you can approach another Tutor in your college. If you are a graduate student, you will also be able to get support from your department.

The Disabled Students' Liberation Campaign also run regular Mental Health Networks throughout term for people who are experiencing or have experienced mental health conditions, which are an opportunity for seeking support from your peers, providing support to others and campaigning on issues that relate to mental health. More information about the meeting times of this network can be found in the DSLC pages later in this Guide.

Supporting a Friend
It can be extremely hard to see someone you care about feeling depressed or anxious. Finding out that they self-injure or have an eating disorder may come as a shock, so give yourself time and space to adjust. It is important to remember that they've chosen to tell you about their feelings because they value your trust and support.

Some key points to remember:

  • Try not to make assumptions: not everyone will respond in the same way.
  • Show acceptance: you don't have to like or understand what your friend tells you, but reassure them that they are not 'wrong' or 'abnormal'.
  • Listen: you are doing something very important simply by listening to them and respecting what they say.
  • Give practical help: if that's what your friend wants. Help them to contact organisations which may be able to help, but don't force it upon them.
  • Recognise your limitations: having a supportive and dependable friend is invaluable, but try not to take responsibility for them. Set aside times when you can talk together but remember that you need time for yourself as well. Don't be afraid to seek support yourself in supporting someone close to you.