Concerned about someone else?

If you are worried about the emotional or mental health of someone you know, here are some practical guidelines on how you can get help, what to say, and how to refer them for professional counselling.

How should I talk to them about it?

It can be difficult or embarrassing to raise mental health issues with a person you care for.  You may be worried about being dismissed or rejected, or that your friend or family member will get angry with you.

However, try not to avoid the situation or pretend that nothing is wrong. The support of family and friends is critical to help someone cope with mental health issues.

The good news is that people in distress will eventually respond to people who are straightforward and honest with them.

Show them your concern. They may open up and begin talking to you. Many people will be relieved at the opportunity to discuss their concerns.

However, others may feel more comfortable talking with a third party. If they don’t want to talk, just respect their privacy. You could refer them to the Counselling Service if they are willing.

When encouraging someone to seek help from Counselling Services:

  • Inform the person that there are no costs involved, and there is no obligation to undergo therapy after the first visit.
  • Let them know that any information shared during their counselling session is kept strictly confidential.
  • Talk to the person about his/her fears about seeking help, and that it takes considerable courage and integrity to face oneself, acknowledge one’s limitations, and admit the need for assistance.
  • Suggest that the person visit the Counselling website to become familiar with the services we offer.

Indigenous, culturally- and linguistically-diverse people groups

Culture plays a significant role on wellbeing. It can strongly influence understanding and acceptance of mental illness. Indigenous, culturally- and linguistically-diverse groups may feel alienated and hesitant in seeking the help that they may need for any one of the following reasons:

  • Fear of authority
  • Not knowing where to get help in their first language
  • Fear of the consequences of disclosing a mental illness.

There are many services available to Indigenous, culturally- and linguistically-diverse students and it is recommended that you contact the Counselling Service or see our list of emergency contacts.

What should I do if someone is contemplating suicide?

If someone you know is considering suicide:

  • Talk with them and listen to what they have to say
  • Show empathy and understanding—acknowledge their despair, sadness or fears.
  • Do not tell the person that they should not feel the way they feel.

Ask the person:

  • If they are thinking of suicide
  • If they have a plan
  • If they have the means.

Fact: Asking someone about suicide will not put the idea in their mind. Most likely, they will be relieved. Individuals contemplating suicide do not wish to die, they just wish for their pain to end.

Suggest that there are other ways to solve the problem besides suicide:

  • Get the person to talk to a counsellor or psychologist
  • Convince them that it is a sign of personal strength to deal with difficulties.
  • Encourage the person to go to a GP for a physical check-up—he or she may have a medical problem, and the GP can refer patients to a psychiatrist or psychologist.

How to make a referral to the Counselling Service

A person should be referred for counselling when their difficulties have gone beyond their ability to cope, and beyond your ability to help.

For non-emergency situations, it may be best to call the Counselling Service on behalf of a student, while they are still with you. The person can then be given an appointment and any further instructions.

If you have concerns about the person’s willingness or ability to follow through with an appointment, it may be best to take the person to the Counselling Service.


Some situations require an immediate response.  These include:

  • When a person is so distressed that their ability to function is seriously impaired
  • When a person poses a threat to him or herself, others or property.

If you are on the Perth campus, please call the counselling service immediately when:

  • A person makes overtly suicidal comments (e.g. considering suicide in the immediate future)
  • A person is experiencing impaired speech, disjointed thoughts or strange behaviour (e.g. talking to ‘invisible’ people).

If you feel the situation is an emergency or needs immediate attention, please:

  • Tell the receptionist that the person needs to see a counsellor immediately
  • Give the receptionist the person’s name and contact details (if possible)
  • Ask to speak with the Head of Service or the emergency counsellor.

If you are uncertain whether to take action, please feel free to discuss the situation with any counsellor. These could include situations such as:

  • Received emails or other communications from a person that concerns you
  • A person showing some level of distress in your presence.

If you are not on the campus, please see emergency contacts for information on the proper procedures to follow.