Supporting Classmates

Scenario #1

I could see that John was really under a lot of stress. He’s been studying really hard this week, camping out in the classroom till after 3am. He always seems to have a cup of coffee in his hand.

We’re all worried about finals. Jane said he’s been sleeping in the men’s room because he’s been too tired to go home. He missed most of the lectures this week, including the review session before next week’s exam because he said he couldn’t wake up in the morning. I know he’s worried because he doesn’t have any lecture notes. I wonder if I should do something.

Scenario #2

I talked to Christina when I saw her crying in the bathroom. She said she was “OK” and had to do a history and physical examination on her patient tonight before scrubbing in on the surgery tomorrow morning. This rotation has been tough. Christina has been late for morning rounds and the residents have been on her for not seeing her patients before they did. In rounds, it seems like she’s not even there. She said she didn’t know if it was worth it anymore. She hasn’t been eating and it looks like she’s losing weight. But her last words to me got me frightened. She said, “What should I do? Should I speak to someone about it? I don’t know what I’m going to do. Maybe it’s better to end it all.”


It’s been said, “No one gets through vet school alone.” Friends and colleagues in Vet school the program know first-hand what the experience is like and are often major sources of support. As you begin school, you will meet classmates who will become lifelong friends. Make a commitment to help each other along the way. Take a personal interest in the well-being of your friends and colleagues.


  • Use the Buddy System. Promise to always be there and support a friend and ask their support of you. When people ask for help (or you sense they need help) act immediately.
  • Include people in your study groups. When exams approach, stress levels rise and students who feel they have no one to study with may feel left out or frightened. Reach out to those who seem alone.
  • Share lecture notes, lab notes, and due date calendars with each other.
  • Make a Performance Pact with each other. For example, if six students are assigned to a rotation at a hospital, they might promise each other to make it the best learning experience possible. “Let’s be the best group of students they ever had here. Let’s help each other out. If someone has lots of patients to take care of or is really tired, let’s help ease their load. If anyone has a great patient or learns something really exciting, share it with others.”
  • Recognize distress in others. If someone looks anxious or worried, speak to him or her. If you feel s/he need help, suggest faculty or counseling help to her or him, or share your concerns with resources listed below.
  • Embrace differences. Most people we meet during vet school experience will not talk and think exactly as we do. Appreciate these differences, and see the opportunities in reflection when others see the world differently.
  • Listen. One way to really help classmates when they’re under stress is to simply listen. Let your friend tell his/her story without interruption. Be aware of body language, such as nodding your head and leaning forward, to emphasize that you are listening and you care.


Make it  – how to talk about mental health and stories to help allies understand

Reducing stigma – top 10 steps

People to Talk to- it doesn’t matter which you start with. Just start!

  • Crisis hot line (for yourself or someone else): (612) 301-4673
  • Text “UMN” to 61222
  • Student counseling services: (612) 624-3323
  • Boynton Mental health clinic: (612) 624-1444
  • Behavioral Consultation Team: (612) 626-3030
  • Dr. Erin Malone: (612) 625-4762,
  • Anyone in Academic and Student Affairs
  • GOALe mentor(s)
  • Any faculty you feel you can approach
  • Classmates, friends, and family

Final thoughts

Vet school friendships are special and can be lifelong. Support each other.


Go out with other friends from vet school and get Margaritas on Tuesdays from La Casita! Or even just a drink or ice cream at a restaurant of your choice. Especially after a hard test or a surgery lab that didn’t go as planned, it feels good to take a couple hours and vent to other friends who are going through the same issues as you. Makes you feel like you’re not the only one feeling the way you do, and get to have some laughs and relaxation time at the same time.

UMN CVM Student, Class of 2019

If you find that you are struggling with time, funds, stress, depression, or anything else, there is always another student in the class who is feeling something similar. Find that other person! Take that first step. Open yourself up to your classmates and they will open up to you. We’re a team.

UMN CVM Student, Class of 2021

Remember that what most people need is for someone to listen to them and understand. You don’t have to be able to solve all their problems, but just taking the time for your day to support them will go a long way. And if they want specific advice, they will ask for it.

UMN CVM Student, Class of 2020

There is a lot of material. Group studying is a very useful tool. Try it. Even if it’s not your typical learning style. You’ll find it very helpful!”

UMN CVM Student, Class of 2021

“The way to survive [med] School is to support your classmates and feel supported yourself. Forget about competition. I found that the more I was open to helping, teaching, spending time with friends from school, the better I felt and did.”

JABSOM Student, Class of 2004

“Making some time during study group for us to vent our frustrations and voice our concerns with each other was invaluable in helping all of us maintain our sanity.”

ABSOM Student, Class of 2006


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Well-being Handbook Copyright © 2019 by Erin Malone is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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