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Help Others

Where do I start? Consider using the suggested "50 First Words":

I’m sorry that you've been hurt. How can I help? Stanford has resources to support you and help you decide what you want to do next. Would you like to speak to a confidential counselor or a staff person about your resources or reporting options? We are here to help.


Then what can I do?

LISTEN. If someone chooses to disclose a traumatic experience to you, trust that they chose you for a reason. The most immediately helpful thing you can do is listen to what they have to say. Listening can be as simple as being there as they process on their own. Don’t worry if you don’t feel like you know exactly what to say. It’s more important to make sure they feel heard.

AFFIRM. Another important thing you can do to assist in your friend’s healing process is to affirm their experience. All too often their stories are not accepted by friends, family, and systems, which can increase harm. 

SUPPORT. Empowerment-based support is critical. Your friend should be given the space to make their own choices about what they want to do, including what resources they want to access. It can be helpful to present options and then to support them in reaching out. 

REFER & CONNECT. It can be difficult to know about all the available resources on campus. Use the resources in this brochure and these websites as a reference. Students are often able to have a support person during their meetings/appointments. Find out if that is helpful for your friend, and make sure that feels right for you as well. 

TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF. You may be experiencing many of your own emotions and thoughts, and it’s critical that you take care of yourself. This means knowing and expressing your own boundaries and limits in supporting a friend and being aware of your own experiences of trauma. It can feel strange to tell a friend when you’re not willing or able to support them in specific ways. Remember that you need to care for yourself first and foremost in order to be your best in supporting another. 


If you are unsure of what to say, you can try:

  • "I am willing to listen if you decide that you want/need to talk about this. I don't want to force you if you are not ready—just let me know if/when you are."

  • "I am here to support you—regardless of what you choose to do."

  • "Please tell me what can I do to help you through this."

  • "You seem to be having a really rough time with this. If you want to talk about it, I'd be glad to just listen."

  • "I want you to know I don't know what to say, but I'm your friend. I believe you, and I will support whatever decisions you make."

  • "As your family, we want to make things better and we can't. We love you and will support you through this."

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