Students may reach out to any member of staff for advice, support or looking for a shoulder to cry on. If it is about something they have experienced, e.g. bullying, harassment, a hate crime or sexual misconduct, being the person they turn to may feel like a big responsibility. It is normal to be concerned about saying the wrong thing, or worried that something they may say could be a personal trigger for you.
This flowchart gives some basic guidance on the process to follow:
To see the above flowchart with clickable links, please open this document
It is important to remember that if a student is coming to you, it's because they trust you. There are lots of ways you can help them in this situation:
Someone has disclosed something to me
Disclosures can come in many forms; it can be something said but then played off as a joke, a story that someone begins to tell you but doesn't finish because it 'doesn't matter', or they could ask you a direct question.
The most important thing to remember is that you are not expected to be a specialist in what they are telling you, but the way you respond to a disclosure can make all the difference in them seeking help or support from professionals.
Responding to a disclosure
Every experience and disclosure will be different, and there isn't one correct way to respond. There are many things you can do to help in this situation:
- Find a safe space - If an incident has just happened, try your best to find somewhere where the student and you feel safe
- Get immediate help if the student is in danger - If the student disclosing is in danger, or seriously injured, call 999 and alert Security (presuming you are on campus) on 020 8240 4335 or 020 8240 4060 to reach their emergency line
- Listen - Listening to someone is so powerful. It shows you care and talking to them about what has just happened can help. This short video based on the Samaritans guidelines on being a good active listener may help When a student is disclosing, there may be long pauses or silences. Don't try and fill them at first, the student may be thinking about how to phrase something, be patient and let them tell their story
- Express your concern - If the student isn't at immediate risk, you can encourage them to get support and offer to help them make initial contact. When responding, make sure to continuously do it in a way that leaves control with them and what happens next. Present the options of support and let them decide what they want to do by asking them what they need or want. They may not make the same decision you would, however, they need to be the one who decides the next steps and what is best for them. Don't tell them what they should do
- Provide information - Ensure that the student is aware of what support is available. See our pages on internal support and external support to assist you with this. Explain that anyone can report a crime to the police by calling 999 (or 101 for non-emergencies) or attending a local police station and also online. If they have expressed that they want to report what happened to the university, you can show them their reporting options
- Take care of yourself - Listening and responding to someone's disclosure can be distressing. Familiarise yourself with the internal support and external support pages so that if you need to speak to someone about how you are feeling, you know who to contact
If you do not feel comfortable having the conversation, with understanding and empathy, explain that you would like to support them in speaking with a member of staff in Student Services. Offer to bring them to the Student Services Centre (Top floor, J Building, Mon-Fri 9am-5pm) or you can get in touch by calling 020 8240 2359/8238.
For information on how to support students in distress, please click here.
For additional support for yourself as a staff member at St Mary's, please visit our HR pages.