Safety and Self-Care
To support others effectively and compassionately, you need to begin by being sensitive to your own needs and taking care of yourself.
You can play a vital role in promoting student mental health by taking action when you notice someone exhibiting signs of distress. By working with other members of the University community, you can help at-risk students connect with the services and resources they need. Through such early intervention, you may help them avoid considerable harm and/or hardship. It is important, though, to respond in ways that do not compromise anyone’s safety—yours or the student’s.
Supporting students who are experiencing difficulty or in distress can lead to feelings of worry, frustration and exhaustion. Students may attempt to blame you for their distress or situation or you may begin to feel responsible for the well-being of a student. Listed below are some examples of the emotional responses that you may have to a student in distress:
“I’ve never met anyone who has mental illness.”
“Working with stressed out students stresses me out.”
“Dealing with health issues among students is not part of my job.”
“Who can I turn to when I need support?”
“I can’t help someone who refuses help.”
“I get stressed out just thinking about having to talk to that student – we never get anywhere.”
“This student seems to be blaming the school and me for her anxiety disorder.”
“Is there a counsellor that I could speak to about the student?”
After offering support to a student in distress, contact your supervisor to report the incident and to debrief. The School of Graduate Studies (SGS) at the University of Toronto has a Wellness Counsellor that offers counselling in these situations. Call (416-978-8030) to schedule a Monday, Wednesday or Thursday appointment at the SGS location (65 St. George Street, Room 101A).
In order for you to support others effectively and compassionately, you need to begin by being sensitive to your own needs and taking care of yourself.
Here are some tips that can help you take care of yourself and help you to reduce burnout:
- Take care of your physical wellbeing.
- Seek support from colleagues.
- Practice being self-aware so that you can recognize when you’ve reached your limit – when the stress of supporting another is negatively impacting you. Be clear and upfront with yourself and others about your limits.
- Take time out for yourself to engage in healthy activities that help you relieve stress (e.g., go for a walk, meet with friends, etc.).
Health and Wellness also offer a variety of workshops; for details and the full calendar of events, please visit http://www.studentlife.utoronto.ca/hwc/workshops.