The Hard Stuff: Mental Health Crisis, Grief & Loss, and Harm Reduction

Purpose of Module

Supporting people can be hard sometimes. We may find ourselves in a position where we are supporting someone as they navigate some very difficult life situations like a mental health crisis, experiencing grief and loss, self-harm or struggles with substance use.

Your campus will have resources for people who are struggling with these hard things. However, you may be their first point of contact. Therefore, it’s important to have a basic understanding of what to do when someone is struggling with really hard things.

This module will walk you through some basic education about mental health and supporting someone who is experiencing a mental health crisis. We will also look at what you can do to support someone who is expressing thoughts of suicide.

Grief is something that most human beings experience at some point in our lives, yet most of us are ill-equipped to support someone who is grieving. In this module, we will take a broad look at the impact of grief and loss. As people in a supporting role, we cannot fix someone’s grief; there is no magic wand that will take away someone’s pain. So, we will look at how we can come alongside someone and hold space for them as they navigate their healing journey.

In the last sections of this module, we will look at substance use, addiction and the value of a harm reduction approach. Substance use can range from recreational use to addiction. While you are not a formal addictions worker, you may encounter students who are struggling with addiction, and  we think it’s important to be educated in the principles of harm reduction.

Learning Objectives

  1. You will be able to demonstrate an understanding of some basic steps and approaches to use when the people you support are in a crisis.
  2. You will be able to recognize and identify signs that someone is experiencing suicidal ideation and understand what you can do to support them.
  3. You will be able to formulate a peer support-based (relational, mutual, non-clinical) response to supporting someone through a crisis.
  4. You will be able to explain and express that there is not one right way to manage grief.
  5. In western culture, most of us are not taught to sit with pain; rather, we often want to fix it and take the pain away. You will be able to see, acknowledge and challenge the desire to “save” someone from their grief, and become equipped to sit with the discomfort.
  6. You will be able to explain the basic principles of Harm Reduction, and know some basic practices you can do to support students who use substances.

Core Values

Throughout this module, please consider and reflect on the Core Values. When you are finished going through this module, please come back to this page and jot down some thoughts about how you will apply the Core Values in your work related to this topic. If you need a refresh of the definition of the Core Values see the graphic at the end of this module.

  • Hope and Wholeness for All
  • Acknowledgement
  • Mutuality
  • Strength-Based
  • Self-Determination
  • Respect, Dignity, and Equity
  • Belonging and Community
  • Curiosity



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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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