Supporting Someone in Crisis

The greatest gift you will ever give someone who is in a crisis is your presence, your attention, and your care.

It’s also important to note that crisis is going to look different for everyone. What a crisis looks like for someone will depend on their life situation, school workload, family situation, potential mental health diagnosis, resources, and any health issues they may be experiencing. There is no “one size fits all” approach to supporting someone in crisis.

The goal of peer support is to come alongside someone and support them from the perspective of “I get it.” However, no matter what our personal experience may be, it’s important to remember that peers aren’t trained as clinicians. It is not advised that you attempt to provide any kind of clinical support to the people you support.

There may be a time when you will be presented with a situation when someone is in crisis, and you will need to figure out what the next steps are. This section is designed to provide you with some skills you can use to support individuals as you navigate a situation like that.


Confidentiality is the ethical principle of keeping information private, when acting in a service role. Working or volunteering for a campus in any capacity (including peer support), means that you need to uphold the confidentiality of anyone you may work with. Every student has a human right to privacy and confidentiality, so this is a non-negotiable expectation for anyone involved in peer services.

Your campus’ peer support program will have their own protocols around confidentiality within your team, please talk to your supervisor about how best to navigate confidentiality in relation to debriefing and reporting. You will likely have to sign a confidentiality agreement when you are hired. It is essential that you read it and understand the importance of upholding it in all circumstances.

Supporting someone when they are dealing with hard things is an honour that should always be respected. We must not share any details about the lives of those we support. It can be tempting to share something about someone without giving out their name. This is never advisable; depending on the context, someone might be able to figure out who we are talking about. Even if they aren’t, it is in everyone’s best interest to keep everything confidential.

If you have any questions about this, please bring them to your supervisor.

Supporting Yourself

It’s important to know that when you are exposed to someone else’s stress and anxiety, that it can cause a stress response in you. When you notice that your stress response is kicking in, here are some ideas of things you can do to support yourself:

  • Know that you are there to listen, not to fix or save someone
  • Remember your own boundaries, and don’t take on more than you can manage
  • Know the resources on your campus, be clear about who to call for support
  • Ask for support from a supervisor when you feel out of your depth
  • Do some deep breathing in the moment to help you relax
  • Do something good for yourself when you get home (example: exercise, chat with a friend, watch a good movie, listen to music, or something else that brings you comfort)

Throughout this module we will look at some approaches to supporting someone who is in crisis, and we’ll also dig into some ideas of how you can support yourself too. Remember you are not alone. Your campus is equipped with many resources to support people, and whenever you feel out of your depth, it’s important to access them.


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Post-Secondary Peer Support Training Curriculum Copyright © 2022 by Jenn Cusick is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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