When and how to refer a student

Which students are entitled to use the Student Wellbeing Service?

All students following a course at the University of Portsmouth are welcome to use the Student Wellbeing Service. The information below is provided to help staff decide whether the service would be an appropriate source of support for students with whom they are connected. 

When might it be appropriate to suggest the Student Wellbeing Service to a student?

We know that tutors and support staff are often the first point of contact for students experiencing personal or academic difficulties. It is often useful for students to think with staff about all the options for support available to them in order to work out which might prove most helpful. There is guidance for this on our webpages. 

Some students may be concerned about their wellbeing or mental health and want advice and support with this, or may need help to access other appropriate services e.g. the NHS. Others may feel that counselling seems like the most appropriate support, and students come to counselling for a whole variety of reasons: they may be feeling stressed or low; they may feel they are stuck in old patterns of behaviour or thinking, which they would like to change; they might just want to understand themselves better so they can benefit fully from their university experience. 

What does the Student Wellbeing Service offer to students?

There are three strands to the Student Wellbeing Service: Student Wellbeing Advice, Mental Health Advice and Counselling. Information about the three strands can be found in our Student Wellbeing Advice leaflet or via MyPort.   

What should a member of staff do if they are unsure what the best option for the student is?

There is no need for you to be sure which strand of the service might be most appropriate; simply signposting a student to get in touch with the service will enable us to do this. There is also a wellbeing practitioner on duty each day who will respond to requests from staff for advice or guidance. Many staff members have found it helpful to talk things through with an independent person in a confidential setting. We are aware of the demands and pressures on staff and are very willing to provide whatever support we can.

What should a student expect from a counselling session?

Counselling is a collaborative process which requires commitment, motivation and active involvement on the part of the student. Generally, counsellors do not provide advice or prescribe a course of action, but will explore the student’s personal dilemma in order to help that person gain clarity and find his/her own solution for the best way forward. The counsellor will listen to the student's concerns and respond in a non-judgemental manner, respecting his/her values and life choices. 

Usually, a counselling appointment lasts 50 minutes or an hour. For some people a single session will be all they need, as it will allow them the opportunity to talk over their concerns with a counsellor. Most people are seen for a brief period, and if it transpires that we are not the best people to help the student, then we can refer him/her to a more appropriate service. 

What should a member of staff do if they suspect a student may have mental health difficulties?

The student may need mental health advice if there have been significant changes to their: 

  • Appearance (weight loss/gain or decline in personal hygiene)
  • Behaviour
  • Mood (withdrawn, miserable, hyperactive or sad)
  • Academic performance 

Practical guidelines for staff

Download practical guidelines for staff supporting students with possible mental health problems PDF 479KB

Can a member of staff make the appointment?

We welcome any encouragement a member of staff can give a student to come to the Student Wellbeing Service. Students can access the service in three ways: 

  1. Brief advice sessions will be held at lunchtimes in the Nuffield Centre. They are offered on a first come, first served basis. Students do not have to book or complete a registration form before they come. Details can be found on the main webpages and flyers, or students can call Nuffield reception on 023 9284 3157. 
  2. Complete a Student Wellbeing Service registration form either online or in person at the Nuffield Centre reception. The information on the form is used to ensure that they are offered appropriate advice or are allocated to the most appropriate practitioner, who may be a Student Wellbeing Adviser, Mental Health Practitioner or an experienced counsellor. 
  3. If they need urgent advice they can call the duty practitioner at the Nuffield Centre on 023 9284 3157 or email See also the Urgent Enquiries section of this website.

When counselling is clearly indicated, it is important that the student concerned makes the actual appointment independently. Counselling is very much a collaborative process, so it is important that students should take responsibility for the decision to seek counselling once the matter has been discussed with the member of staff.

If the student is unwilling or unable to make contact with the Student Wellbeing Service, for whatever reason, and you remain concerned about their wellbeing, you can ask their permission to contact the service for advice. If they refuse permission you can still contact the service and discuss the case anonymously.

What can a member of staff do if they are seriously concerned about a student?

If you have serious but not immediate concerns about a student e.g. the possibility that they may harm themselves or others, may be at risk of self-neglect, vulnerable to harm from others or may be suffering from mental ill-health, you can inform them that you will contact the duty practitioner in the Student Wellbeing Service and that the service may then contact the student to offer support.

In cases of serious risk the duty of care to students overrides guidance about confidentiality.  

We do not provide an emergency service, but, as stated above, there is a practitioner on duty each day who can respond to urgent calls from staff or students. If the duty practitioner is not available straight away, the member of staff will be contacted as soon as possible by them to consider the situation. However, where immediate and urgent action seems required e.g. a student is threatening suicide, to harm others or is displaying signs of severe mental health problems, it may be more appropriate to contact the security lodge on 3418 and they will be able to contact the relevant emergency services in the first instance. Please feel free to contact the Student Wellbeing Service for further advice and guidance if this situation rises. Further information is also available on our webpages. 

Who will know if a student has used the service?

The Student Wellbeing Service takes confidentiality very seriously. What a student says to a practitioner is not disclosed to anyone outside the service without that student's permission, and no-one will know that the student has contacted us unless he/she decides to tell them. The only exception is when the practitioner believes that the student or others are at risk of serious harm. Even then, if at all possible, the situation will be fully discussed with the student. 

The Student Wellbeing practitioners all abide by relevant professional ethical frameworks.

Does the Student Wellbeing Service offer any other kind of support to staff?

We have a longstanding interest in supporting staff, and are keen to respond to requests for help with training events and staff development sessions.

Can the Student Wellbeing Service provide a letter in support of an ECF application?

Sometimes students ask us to write letters regarding extenuating circumstances. We are happy to do this where it seems appropriate and the student is known to us. However, we do not normally provide a letter where the only contact with the student is the one in which they have asked us for the ECF letter. Please see our policy on Extenuating Circumstances.

What provision is there for counselling for members of staff?

We do not offer personal counselling for members of staff. However, the University provides an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) to support all staff. 

Right Management Workplace Wellness provide a free and confidential helpline, with unlimited access to an advice, information and telephone or face-to-face counselling service designed to help individuals deal with a range of problems which may affect their personal lives or performance at work. 

If a member of staff has questions or concerns which have not been dealt with above, then please do not hesitate to contact the Student Wellbeing Service, either by phone 023 9284 3157, or by email and we will always do our best to provide advice and guidance.