Signs you or someone else needs help

Learn more about the signs to look out for, that indicate that you or someone you know needs some help and support.

When to act

Changes in behaviour

  • Unusual patterns of behaviour
  • Avoidance of tasks or responsibilities
  • Withdrawing socially/verbally/emotionally
  • Neglecting self-care
  • Agitated or excessively demanding interaction with others
  • Excessive/uncharacteristic use of alcohol or other drugs
  • An increase in impulsive behaviour
  • Increased risk taking behaviour
  • Talking of suicide or violent acts towards self and/or others
  • Taking about plans/action toward suicidal intent or self harm

Changes in emotions

  • Being tearful
  • Sighing frequently
  • Appearing vague
  • Seeming confused
  • Experiencing high levels of anxiety or having panic attacks
  • Unpredictable expression of anger
  • Displaying agitation
  • Thoughts or speech patterns that seem pressured or race or seem odd
  • Sustained depressed mood
  • Sustained irritability
  • Frequent expressions of negativity

Changes in study habits and uni engagement

  • A marked change in concentration/academic/work place performance
  • Increased occasions of uncompleted academic tasks or neglect of personal responsibilities
  • Loss of motivation
  • Academic failure

Changes in physical health

  • Looking pale, perspiring excessively, having breathing difficulties
  • Fainting or loss of consciousness
  • Muscular spasms
  • Obvious intense pain, extreme fatigue
  • Complaining of sleep problems or falling asleep in unexpected circumstances
  • Regular episodes of illness, colds, flu etc.

If you are concerned about your physical health, call the UNSW Health Service on: 02 9385 5425

How to help someone

How to help someone

”Your Mental health: asking someone are you okay?” Duration:2:02

1. Prepare 

  • Consider your own wellbeing and capacity to support someone else with theirs.
  • Decide on a good time and place to reach out to them, somewhere where they can relax and open up without others listening.
  • Think about changes in their behaviour you have observed and how to compassionately express your concerns

2.  Reach Out

  • Ask them how they are.
  • Use open ended questions like “What’s been going on for you?” or “how have you been feeling lately?
  • If they say they are fine you can check by saying “It’s just you don’t seem your usual self-recently”
  • It can be helpful to mention any changes that you have noticed e.g. “I have noticed you haven’t been coming to XXX recently, is there a reason you haven’t been attending?” 

3. Listen

  • Give them space and time to open up. Use minimal prompts if they are struggling. e.g. “It’s ok, I know this is hard, take your time.”
  • Consider your body language and eye contact.
  • Try not to jump in and ‘solve’ their problems
  • Find out how long they have been feeling this way and if they have been getting any help. 
  • Hear from Empathy Researcher Brene Brown on how to provide empathetic support.

4. Connect

  • Reassure them that help is available and getting help early means they will feel better quicker.
  • Ask them what has helped in the past.
  • Make suggestions of UNSW or external services that can help, giving them control of what happens next.
  • Explain how they can access these services and offer to help them make an appointment.
  • Find out if they have any supportive friends or family that they might want to talk to. 

Mental Health Connect is the best place to start for mental health support at UNSW. 

What if they don’t want to access help?

  • Everyone has the right to refuse help if they don’t want it – unless they are in crisis*. There are some helpful things you can do.
  • Find out why and correct any misinformation that is acting as a barrier (e.g. information on free services if they are worried about cost).
  • Continue to encourage them without nagging.
  • Check back in again after a few days.

*If symptoms become severe, you may need to seek assistance for them against their wishes. Call Mental Health Connect for advice on what you should do, or if in an immediate emergency call an ambulance (000 if off campus, 9385 6666 for campus security if on campus)

5. Self-care

  • Good job!  You have reached out to someone you are worried about and had the conversation.
  • Even if the conversation didn’t go as you had hoped you will have still shown the person you have helped that you care and want to help.
  • Make sure you take time to self-care and look after your own wellbeing.
  • Contact Mental Health Connect if you think your own mental health has been impacted.

How to help yourself

Not really sure if you need help?

Unsure about asking for help?

We have all been there, it feels like a big step and you might be feel a bit awkward, reluctant, worried, scared, afraid, or not really sure about reaching out for help. Get this though, that first step is the hard part, everything after that becomes a bit easier.

We all need some help and support at some point in our lives. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. Reaching out for help and support will help you move on from where you are right now.

Check out this story from Austin, in which he reflects on how asking for help made a real difference to his life.

Where to get help

Mental Health Connect

Mental Health Connect can connect you to help and support for services on and off-campus. Fill out the confidential form form here and we will contact you to discuss your situation. We will then make recommendations based on your own individual circumstances.
All contact with us is completely confidential.

How can I access Mental Health Connect?

Mental Health Connect is available to all currently enrolled UNSW Sydney students. If you are an ADFA/Canberra student needing mental health support please visit the UNSW Canberra Student Counselling Service

Please scan the QR code or click here to complete our online confidential formOnce you have completed this form, we will arrange an appointment and the details will be emailed to you.

Can't wait and need support now?

  • UNSW Psychology and Wellness (9am – 5pm, Monday to Friday): 02 9385 5418.
  • Out of hours? Call UNSW After Hours Mental Health Support Line (5pm-9am and 24 hours on weekends): 02 9385 5418.
  • Text a counsellor after hours (5pm-9am and 24 hours on weekends) on 0485 826 595.
  • International students, not in Australia, call +61 2 8905 0307 anytime of the day or night (24/7).

In case of emergency or life threatening situation within Australia call 000 

Urgent help

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