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Helping Someone in Distress

Talk to the person. Let the individual know of your concerns, and ask if he or she feels distressed. Please remember, however, that if you are not comfortable expressing your concerns to the person, your first step can be to consult with the Faculty, Staff and Student Assistance Programs (FASAP and JHSAP).

Be accepting and nonjudgmental. Help the person determine what the problem might be, without minimizing his or her feelings or judging him or her for feeling distressed.

If a coworker or student confides in you, reinforce that choice. Acknowledge your recognition that he or she hurts and has sought your help. For example, "I'm glad you told me how you're feeling. I'm happy to listen or help you find professional support that is trained to assist individuals with similar concerns."

Know your limits as a helper. While talking to the individual, you may find that you are unable to provide adequate assistance or do not feel comfortable trying to help someone cope with his or her problems. If this is the case, it is important that you indicate in a gentle but direct manner that professional assistance is free and available, and that you will assist your coworker or student in finding competent professionals.

Use the resources available to you. Know the resources that are available to you. Don’t hesitate to contact these resources [link] for consultation if you are not sure how to proceed.

Referring a Coworker or Student in Distress
Suppose that a coworker or student comes to you and begins to describe problems that are interfering with his or her work. At a break in the discussion, you might say:

"It sounds as though you have been under a lot of stress lately, are not doing very well, and would like to talk to someone about this. I suggest that you see someone at the Faculty and Staff Assistance Program (FASAP), Johns Hopkins Student Assistance Program (JHSAP), Johns Hopkins University Counseling Center, University Mental Health, or other appropriate mental health service), as I know they are well-qualified to help and often work with faculty, staff, and students with similar concerns. I would be happy to find the website or phone number for you.”