Looking after your Group Members

Got a reason to worry about students you know?

As leaders of clubs and societies, you’re a potential role model for other students, especially students in their first year at university.  You’re also getting to know students socially, when you may spot something’s up.  You may not know what the problem is, but you’re aware the student isn’t behaving like they normally would.  Or they trust you and have told you.

We don’t expect you to know the answers to students’ problems, and from past experience in the Advice Service, we know that there’s often a lot more going on than what we’re first told. 

We don’t want you doing more than you feel comfortable to do, but we would recommend you do a ‘first aid’ response.  Just like if someone breaks their leg, you spot a problem, stop it getting worse, and get support.  It’s just like that when you’re supporting your members.

First Steps

If you’re concerned there’s a problem but aren’t sure, speak to the student and explain why you’re concerned.  If you don’t feel confident to do this, get in touch with the Advice Service, or with others who know the student concerned, so that someone asks the question.

You won’t be making a problem worse by talking to the student about it.  And if you’re wrong, and the student says so, you can be relieved that there’s nothing to worry about.  But if you’re right, then this could be the start of that student getting the support they need.

Next Step - Getting Help

Don’t agree to keep quiet about problems.  If you and the student are out of your depth, get support.  Ideally, agree with the student that you’ll get others involved, but if you think they’re at risk, and they won’t agree to get support, we would strongly recommend you report on your concerns. 

If you’re not sure who to speak to, contact the Advice Service.  The SU advice service is confidential, and does not share information with the rest of the SU or with the University without your permission, unless they believe that there’s no other choice to protect a student’s welfare. 

Once you’ve reported the problem, it’s then our responsibility, not yours, to deal with it.

When should I speak up?

There are very few problems that you find out about after working hours that can’t wait until you speak to an adviser the next day.  The ones we’re most concerned about are:

  1. If a student is distressed;
  2. If they’re self-harming;
  3. If they’ve said they’ve thought about killing themselves;
  4. Or if they’re at risk for other reasons, eg being threatened by someone, or have been assaulted.

Pretty much everything else can safely wait, but do make use of the Useful Contacts section on the Advice Service webpages for links to us, and other organisations that may be able to offer longer term help on a range of issues.

If you’re concerned the student is distressed, and they’re willing, suggest they phone Nightline.  Nightline offers emotional support and listening without judging.

If a student’s thought about killing themselves, but they’re willing to get support, suggest they phone the Samaritans.  Available 24 hours day, all year round.

In an emergency, you may need to call 999 for the police or an ambulance.

Extra Help at SU venues/events

At SU venues, or SU organised activities, report concerns to SU staff members or the events organisers, even if you don’t think immediate action’s needed, or everything has been done that can be done. 

It’s for your reassurance, as well as to make sure the SU is doing everything necessary to safeguard students in our care.  After the event, report back to the Student Activities Team.


SUUG Advice Service (Greenwich and Avery Hill students):

GK Unions Advice Service (Medway students):

London Nightline: