A Guide for Assisting Students in Distress
Students may experience various types of distress during their experience at Weber State. As a member of the faculty or staff, you may recognize signals of distress. We want to provide you resources to help you know where to refer the student and how to respond in the meanwhile. This is only a guide and is not intended to imply that you are responsible for managing distressed students on our campus. We want faculty and staff to be caring and familiar with the resources, but faculty and staff also need to make sure they are setting appropriate boundaries so that they can focus on their primary roles and help students get to individuals who are specifically tasked to provide these resources. Multiple campus resources are also available to consult and collaborate toward the care and success of our Weber State students.
RECOGNIZE: Awareness of Students in Distress
You may become aware that a student is in distress based on groupings, frequency, and severity of behaviors, not just isolated incidents.
Safety Risk Indicators:
- Verbal, written, or implied intent to harm or kill self or others.
- Unprovoked anger, hostility, rage, or physical violence
- Reckless, disorderly, or dangerous conduct
- Expression of troubling themes in academic assignments, email, classroom discussions, chats, social media, etc:
- Hopelessness or helplessness
- Isolation or withdrawal
- Threatening, intimidating, harassing, or stalking behaviors ( PPM 3-67) (PPM 3-32)
- Inappropriate references to having or seeking a weapon.
IF YOU OBSERVE ONE OR MORE OF THESE SIGNALS, YOU SHOULD REACH OUT FOR IMMEDIATE CONSULTATION.
- Weber State Police Department: 911 or 801-626-6460
- Dean of Students Office: 801-626-7256; email@example.com
- Office of Equal Opportunity: 801-626-7537; https://www.weber.edu/equal-opportunity
RESPOND: Next Steps in Helping Students in Distress
Safety First - Referral Second
- If you believe there is an imminent danger to anyone, including yourself, call 911 or Weber State Police at 801-626-6460
- Set and remember your own boundaries. Be clear about limitations in your ability to help. Be careful about giving students personal contact information, associating on social media, or connecting off campus. Never meet alone with a student who makes you feel unsafe.
- You do not have to handle this situation or do so on your own. Please contact the Dean of Students: 801-626-7256; firstname.lastname@example.org for resources or assistance.
- If you decide to meet with the student, consider meeting with your door open.
- If you are continuing to interact with the student, but have concerns, consider setting up code words or phrases with your colleagues to indicate that you need them to call for emergency assistance.
If you are in a situation where you are not able to reach out to the Dean of Students and need to meet with the student, the following is provided as guidance only.
- Trust your gut: If you believe there is a problem, there very well could be.
- Feeling overwhelmed and anxious is normal. It reflects your caring.
- Model calm speech and body language. Speak with moderate pace and volume, sit with relaxed and comfortable posture.
- Don’t rush. Pause to think as needed. Let the student know they’re worth the time.
- Example: “It feels important to take our time with this.”
Explain Your Concerns
- Be specific about the behavior or performance you have observed.
- Do not make guesses or assumptions about why they might be behaving a certain way.
- Do not make comments or inquire about the student's psychological or mental health state.
- Express care and compassion, not criticism.
- Respect the student’s value system, even if you do not agree with it.
- Example: “I notice that you’ve missed two classes this week. That’s not like you. I’m concerned about you.”
- Give the student your full attention.
- Make consistent eye contact.
- Be patient. Silence is okay.
- Restate the student’s words to check your understanding.
- Ask clarifying questions as needed.
- Example: “You said that you can’t do this anymore. What did you mean by that?”
- Ask the student what they need, what they believe will be helpful to them.
- Ask them if they have a support system who can help them.
- Ask the student to think through how they have been able to their needs. Ask about favorite activities, supportive people, peaceful places, and other ideas.
- Example: “You’ve got a lot going on. Are you getting support to help you cope? Are you familiar with campus resources?”
- If there is an immediate concern, ask the student about thoughts of hurting or killing themselves or anyone else.
- Asking the question does not instill thoughts that weren’t already there.
- Request training in QPR for Suicide Prevention if you haven't already taken the training or if you need a refresher.
- Example: “Are you thinking about killing yourself? Are you thinking about hurting or killing someone else?”
- If there is time, reach out to a colleague or supervisor for support before, during, and/or after you meet with a student of concern.
- Don’t keep secrets or promise to do so. Only certain offices on campus are able to provide a level of confidentiality, the Women's Center, the Counseling and Psychological Services Center, the Office of Equal Opportunity, and Weber State Police Department.
- Remember that some disclosures must be reported.
- Discriminatory harassment, sexual harassment, and sexual assault, must be reported to the Office of Equal Opportunity.
- Campus Security Authorities must report Clery Crimes to the Weber State Police Department.
- Example: “I’m going to reach out to a colleague to make sure we explore all options that will help you and keep you safe.”
Share Campus Resources
- Review the many resources available on campus through the Division of Student Access and Success.
- Remember your own boundaries. Be clear about limitations in your ability to help.
- Brainstorm options for next steps to help the student address the problem.
- Help the student determine an action plan with specific steps and tasks.
- If needed, help the student take a first step. Consider calling a department together or helping them write an email to a professor.
- Example: “We’ve talked about a few offices that might be able to help you. Which one are you most interested in? How about if we reach out to them now together?”
- If appropriate, make a specific plan for a follow-up contact.
- Initiate this plan yourself.
- Example: “Let’s meet again at this time next week to see how you’re doing. I want to make sure you’re getting the support you need.”
If a student discloses the following, immediate reporting is REQUIRED!*
Violent or threatening behavior
Weber State Police: 801-626-6460
CSA Clery Act Crimes including sexual assault, dating/domestic violence, or stalking
Weber State Police: 801-626-6460
Discrimination or harassment based on a protected class
Office of Equal Opportunity: 801-626-7537
Sexual assault, dating/domestic violence, or stalking
Office of Equal Opportunity: 801-626-7537
Many campus resources are available for students experiencing various concerns:
- Academic Distress/Failure
- Childcare Issues
- Disruptive Classroom Behavior
- Financial Distress
- Food Insecurity
- Housing Insecurity
- Loneliness/Lack of Belonging
- Medical Problems
- Mental Health
- Sexual Assault, Sexual Harassment, Domestic/Dating Violence, or Stalking
Presentations for Departments, Faculty or College
Interested in additional mental wellbeing training for your department staff, faculty, or college? Consider scheduling the following presentations. For more information, or to schedule a training, reach out to Dianna Abel, Executive Director of Student Wellbeing: email@example.com; x6274.
You Can Help a Student (YCHAS)
YCHAS is a training made available to Weber State through our affiliation with the Jed Foundation. This presentation trains faculty and staff how to recognize and respond to students in distress. We cover the current landscape of college student mental health, how to identify signs of distress, how you can take action to help, and where to find additional support.
YCHAS is a 45-minute training.
QPR for Suicide Prevention: Question - Persuade - Refer
More than 45,000 Americans die by suicide each year, and suicide is consistently in the top ten leading causes of death in the state of Utah. More than 30% of Weber State students screen positive for suicide risk factors. Yet most people in a suicidal crisis will show some warning signs. We can learn how to respond effectively and potentially save a life.
QPR for Suicide Prevention, an evidence-based standardized curriculum, teaches anyone how to recognize the clues of suicide, ask the appropriate question, persuade suicidal individuals to seek help, and refer to effective treatment.
Ideally, QPR is a 90-minute training that includes role-plays. It can be condensed into a 60-minute training.
For more information about these or other mental health training opportunities, please contact Dr. Dianna Abel, Executive Director of Student Wellbeing, at x6274 or firstname.lastname@example.org.