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Dean of the College

Vassar College

A student who works in your office is very worried about a close friend on campus who has been self-injuring and is not functioning well. The student has been taking care of their friend a lot and it is now impacting their own ability to focus, get their work done, etc and they are feeling stressed and overwhelmed.


  • Initiate conversation
    • If the student expresses they are stressed, initiate by asking an open-ended question “has anything been going on lately?”
  • Describe observations, express feelings
    • “I notice you seem unfocused.. stressed..”
  • Ask open questions


  • Provide empathy and validation
  • Normalize and reduce stigma
  • Ask what kind of support they would like (problem-solving, listening, referrals)
  • “How are you taking care of yourself?” “Who is your support system?” “Who are the people in your support system who are there for you?”
  • “The best way to support others is by taking care of yourself.” “It’s okay to step back.”


  • Encourage the student to submit a Student Support Network (SSN) report about the friend (you can sit with them while they complete that report)
  • ** language to offer options: “I am here to listen and I also understand if given my role you would prefer to talk to someone else about this topic (due to power dynamics, etc.) … What do you think?”
  • Potentially offer resource connection—you want to get them to the best possible support


  • Healthy boundaries and caring for self, watching to not get overinvolved
  • Explore support systems for the student, who is holding a lot
  • Make sure to check in in a few days