Family Illness

While you are at university, a family member might be ill or become ill.

This can be really difficult to deal with when you are not around your family. In some instances you might feel a little guilty that you are not with them. There are a number of ways to deal with family illness, and what works for one person may not work for another. Below you can find some more information about how to deal with family illness and how the university can support you.  

Tips on how to continue with university life when someone at home is ill

Before starting university

    1. Remember that it is ok to decide to go to university even if someone is ill at home. Leaving home and going to university is a big decision even if no one in your family is ill and it is an even bigger decision if someone is ill. Whilst this is a decision which you should discuss with your family, ultimately it is your decision. Some people might want to delay starting university as this would allow them time to process what is going on, which is fine, there is nothing wrong with starting university later in life. While others may want to go to university and feel like that is their best option. 
    2. If you have decided to go to university it can be a good idea to apply to universities which are not far from home so that you can go home if you feel the need to. This way you can attend university while still being available if needed, this might make the transition easier for you and your family.  
    3. It is a good idea to let the university know that someone is ill at home and see what they can do to help you. This way some help, such as counselling or wellbeing support, can be arranged for you before coming to university.

While at university

    1. Allow yourself to feel whatever you may be feeling, regardless of if that is hurt, sadness, worry or any other feelings.
    2. You should take time to process what is happening, it can be difficult to go from thinking everything is normal one day to then finding out that someone is ill.
      • In some cases, you may also feel like you might want to go home and be with your family for a while. If this is the case, you should arrange a meeting with your personal tutor who can help you with what needs to happen next so that you can go home.
      • Alternatively, some students may not want to go home and instead continue to study. Either way, it is OK, you need to do what you think is best for you.  
    3. Once you have figured out what you want to do, it might be a good idea to make an appointment with someone from the Mental Wellbeing team so that you can let them know what is going on. This way, if you at some point down the line need more support, they will already know what is going on.
    4. Notify your personal tutor about your circumstances so that they know and can help you with the academic aspect of things if that is needed. 

How can the University Support you?

The university can support you in various ways. If you feel like your family member's illness is affecting your mental wellbeing, you can make an appointment with the Mental Wellbeing team by filling out the Online Referral Form.

If you want to take a leave of absence or feel like your family members illness has affected your studies, you can start off by reaching out to your academic tutor and discuss what options you have going forward. Alternatively, you can make an appointment with the Mental Wellbeing team to discuss your options with them.

If the family illness has caused any financial issues or you have concerns, you can make an appointment with the Student Advice and Support Service team and get their guidance and advice on the matter.

If you want to take a leave of absence or not continue with your university career you should make an appointment with the Student Advice and Support Service team who can outline what the implications are and what you would have to do next.

What to do next?

Contact Wellbeing Team

If the family illness has affected your mental wellbeing, contact the Mental Wellbeing Team by completing the Online Referral Form

Contact your Academic Tutor

If you are worried about the impact your family members illness has had on you studies you should make an appointment with your academic tutor.  

Discuss your Options

If you want to discuss your options of taking a leave of absence, leaving university and the implications of this you should contact the Student Advice and Support Service Team

What should I do if I am worried about somebody else?

If you know someone who is experiencing someone in their family being ill, there are a few things you can do to support them.  

  1. Ask them if you can help them in some way, is there anything you can do or bring them to make them feel better? Sometimes just asking them straight out is the best way to help them.  

  1. Ask them if they want to talk about it. Sometimes they may say no, and, in this case, you might just have to leave it at that and say that if they ever want to talk about it, they can come to you. If they say yes, then give them the space and time to talk about it. In most cases they are not looking for any advice, instead they just want someone who will listen.  

  1. You can encourage them and ask them if they want to join you if you are going to go into town, play a sport, go for a walk, go study, any activity which might take their mind off what is happening. It is however important that these activities are not harmful to them, such as engaging in excessive alcohol consumption or consuming drugs.  

  1. Encourage them to seek help from the Mental Wellbeing Team by using the Online Referral Form 

  1. If you see that it is affecting their studies, you should suggest that they talk to their personal tutor. You can suggest this even if it is not affecting their studies as it potentially could later and then their academic tutor would already know what is happening.  

  1. You can also encourage them to talk to their family and offer to be there while they call them or after if they want you to be there for support.  

Things you should not do:  

  1. Do not minimise their feelings. You might not think that the illness that their family member has is anything to worry about, but they clearly do and if that is the case you need to allow them to feel however they are feeling.  

  1. Do not tell them to look at the bright side and that things could be worse. This is never helpful.  

  1. Do not encourage them to consume alcohol or drugs as a mean of coping.  

External Resources

Last Updated: 5th September 2022