How to support a colleague and fellow student at a difficult time?

The events in Ukraine are an emotionally difficult experience for everyone. We are a large university family and so there may be people around us who are very closely and personally affected by what has happened. In this situation, one of the ways in which each of us can help is to notice another person's concern and offer first psychological support. Below you will find three basic steps on how to support a colleague or a fellow student.


Step 1. Notice and assess the situation

  • Take notice how your colleague or fellow student is doing
  • If you notice changes in behaviour or other signs indicating that they may be having difficulties, ask if you can help
  • Tell the person what has been or what is worrying you in their behaviour
  • Let them know you are there and ready to listen
  • Find a place where you can talk without distractions. If necessary, find a place where the person could lie down
  • Offer a drink – warm herbal tea or water is the best
  • Assess whether there is a risk to the health of the person or others If necessary, call for help (112)


Step 2. Listen supportively and without judgement

  • Ask what help your colleague or fellow student needs
  • Focus on what he or she is saying – what matters is that person’s experience
  • Reflect his or her feelings, for example “It seems to me that you are sad, confused, angry, worried, etc. right now”
  • Say that his or her feelings are natural and part of what he or she is going through
  • Ask open-ended questions (“How?”, “Please describe...”, “Help me understand why...”, etc.)
  • Be patient, the person might not be ready to start speaking right away
  • Allow pauses in the conversation Let the person speak, do not start giving advice immediately
  • Find out what has helped the person in case of difficulty in the past
  • Remember that everything you are told is confidential.


Step 3. Offer necessary information

  • Say that you support your colleague or fellow student and that you won’t leave him or her alone with the problem
  • Find out who can support the person outside the university (family, friends, close ones). Encourage the person to contact them
  • Ask whether the person would like you to contact someone on his or her behalf
  • Ask what adjustments could support him or her at the moment (going home, taking an afternoon off, rearrangement of duties) · Share information about the possibilities of getting psychological help

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WHO, „Psychological first aid: Guide for field workers“

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