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A trained peer — someone who also wears scrubs and knows exactly what you’re going through — can be an invaluable resource. They understand the daily challenges and frustrations of the profession and are able to lend support in tough times. Peer support offers you a shared perspective with a skilled response.
You are not alone; your peers are ready to stand with you.
You may not need support for yourself right now, but you might have noticed that one of your co-workers seems to be struggling. You’ve observed some concerning signs and you want to be supportive, but you don’t know how to help. Is it really your place to get involved? Will it impact your professional relationship?
Health care professionals depend on each other to work together to help and treat patients. You can also use a teamwork approach to support each other.
It can be difficult to know how to help, but support can begin with a conversation. If you notice that a peer seems to be having a hard time, don’t wait for them to ask for help. Even if it feels uncomfortable, check on them. Asking simple questions, or acknowledging that they seem to be having a tough time can let them know you care – and that they don’t have to struggle alone.
Use these conversation starters to help support a peer who may be struggling:
There may be times when your peer won’t feel like talking about it. It can take a while to feel comfortable discussing personal struggles. When that happens, it’s best not to force a conversation. Just let them know you care, and you’re there for them if they need someone to listen.
If your peer does want to talk about how they’re doing, help form a genuine connection:
There may be times when you feel very worried about a peer. They may have said something that alerted you to a more serious level of concern, or perhaps joked in a manner that could be taken the wrong way. If you’re concerned about a peer’s safety, don’t hesitate to respond.
If you feel that a peer may be considering suicide, it’s important to ask the question directly. This can seem like a hard thing to do, but it consists of one simple question: “Are you thinking about killing yourself?”
If they answer “yes,” do not leave them alone. Stay with them to make sure they’re safe, and call or text a crisis line for immediate support.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention offers additional information and research, as well as resources and personal stories.