This section will help you consider your own boundaries and limits as you respond to students.

These slides are available for use with this section of the presentation. For information about downloading presentation slides, see Introduction.

Maintain Your Own Boundaries

When helping students, it is important to remember to maintain your own boundaries. Recognize what you can and can’t do, given the limitations of your role, and be clear with others. Refer students as appropriate and access your own support when needed.

We’re going to consider a list of some feelings people might have as they try to support a student. These feelings may be signs that you are taking on too much and not maintaining boundaries. You may need to step back, consult, and take time for self-care. As you read this list, check in with your body and notice which of these resonate with you. They may remind you of an experience you’ve had with a student.

  • You feel overly responsible for the student.
  • You often think about how to solve the student’s problems outside of work hours.
  • You think the problems the student brings are more than you can handle.
  • You feel stressed out by the student’s issues or behaviour.
  • You feel pressure to solve the student’s problems.
  • You feel uneasy or have a gut feeling that the student is not okay despite the student denying it.
  • You see a pattern repeating itself in your interactions with a student.
  • You find yourself avoiding the student.
  • You feel anxious or angry when the student approaches you.

All of the above responses are common, and we can all likely relate to many.

We all have our limits of comfort challenged in different ways. When you notice any of these responses within yourself, it may be time to consult or refer.

Consult with Others

We encourage you to consult with your colleagues, chairs, deans, or others whom you trust. Counsellors can meet with staff and faculty who are concerned about a student and are unsure how to handle the situation. You can also call a crisis line if you have serious concerns about a student. You are encouraged to consult when:

  • You are concerned about a student’s safety, academic performance, or well-being but unsure how or whether to intervene.
  • You are uncertain how to respond to a student’s approach for help.
  • You continue to be concerned about a student who has declined help.

Brainstorming Activity

Ask participants to jot down a few ideas about how they can take care of themselves while still being open and available to offer support to students.

(If online, ask people to add one or two thoughts into the chat.)

Text Attributions

  • This chapter was adapted from Capacity to Connect: Supporting Students from Distress to Suicide. © Vancouver Island University. Adapted by Barbara Johnston. CC BY 4.0 license.

Media Attributions


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

Capacity to Connect: Supporting Students’ Mental Health and Wellness Copyright © 2023 by Gemma Armstrong; Michelle Daoust; Ycha Gil; Albert Seinen; Faye Shedletzky; Jewell Gillies; Barbara Johnston; and Liz Warwick is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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