Peer support options

Friends and other students can do a lot to help you resist depression. They often know and understand you best. But some people worry about over-burdening their friends or housemates and use this as an excuse not to confide in them.

Be realistic about what friends can do

It is important, of course, to be realistic about what your friends can and can’t do. Let your friends know that you don’t expect anything unrealistic and you won’t overburden them. Give your friends a copy of the ‘Worried about someone else?’ page for more ideas.

Friends can’t:

  • be your only source of support
  • take responsibility for keeping you alive or safe, or making you happy
  • act as your unofficial therapist
  • be ‘on call’ at all hours

Friends can:

  • know a bit about what is going on for you
  • help with distractions and other activities
  • be there to listen sometimes
  • know how to tell you what their limits are and when they need a break
  • support you in finding professional help

Potential help offered by other students

Students’ union

The Students’ Union usually has a welfare sabbatical officer and welfare reps who are available at certain times for students to approach. They may run various activities which can be part of your strategies (eg. volunteering schemes) and should have info about other student support schemes like those listed below.

Peer support schemes

Formal peer support schemes are available at some universities, consisting of student volunteers trained to provide listening and support and appropriate referrals for professional help.


Nightline is a student listening service based on the Samaritans model, often providing a source of anonymous and confidential support through the night. Look on your campus intranet or noticeboards for contact details, or check our ‘Get local help’ section to see if your campus has one. Once you feel well enough you may wish to volunteer yourself – it’s a good way to put something back, and the training offers useful life skills.


Some university or college counselling services or student unions run therapy or support groups for students (see ‘Alternatives’). It can be really helpful to be in touch with others who have experienced similar feelings. (You could also read about others in the Student Stories on this site.)

Clubs and societies

Clubs and societies are not usually a direct source of support, but ways to meet other students in smaller groups and to reduce isolation.

Offer your own support

Once you have moved on from your depression, or are feeling stronger, you might be able to make your own contribution to supporting others?  Perhaps more needs to be done on your campus to tackle depression and its effects? Have a look at the ‘Take Action’ section and think about how could get involved in working for changes. After all, your experience gives you valuable expertise on the subject.

Next: Uni/college support

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Breaking isolation
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