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Purple Folder:

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.

How to Identify Students in Distress
Next Steps in Helping Students in Distress
Where to Find Additional Support 

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
    • Desperation
  • Threatening, intimidating, harassing, or stalking behaviors ( PPM 3-67) (PPM 3-32)
  • Inappropriate references to having or seeking a weapon.


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; 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.

Where to Find Additional Support 

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. 

Stay Grounded

  • 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.”

Listen Actively

  • 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?”

Gather Information

  • 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?”

Be Direct

  • 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.
  • 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?”

Follow Up

  • If appropriate, make a specific plan for a follow-up contact.
  • Initiate this plan yourself.
    • Students may not feel comfortable asking for more of your time.
    • Let the student know that they’re important to you.
    • You can also contact the Dean of Students Office, Human Resources, or other resources instead.
  • 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.”

REFER: Where to Find Support

Is the student in immediate danger or does the student pose an immediate threat to others?

Mandatory Reporting

If a student discloses the following, immediate reporting is REQUIRED!*

Student Disclosure

Required Reporting

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

Training Resources


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:; 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 appropriate questions, 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.

How to incorporate mental health education in your classroom 

For more information about these or other mental health training opportunities, please contact Dr. Dianna Abel, Executive Director of Student Wellbeing, at x6274 or

Supporting Mental Health in Your Classroom


Pedagogical Approaches

  • Do not post assignments/test grades before a weekend begins. Ideally, grades should be posted such that students can speak with you (the instructor) soon. This practice can help the instructor put the student’s grade in perspective.
  • Use a strengths-based approach that emphasizes the positive aspects of student effort and achievement, as well as human strengths. Make the effort to highlight what students are doing right. Help students identify and capitalize on their strengths.

Learn more

Classroom Culture/Climate

  • Share stories of your failures and comebacks. 
  • Commend students for asking questions about course material or assignments.
  • Share how you (the instructor) relax/unwind with hobbies, friends, etc…
  • Ask students for their help (e.g., help with computers, understanding new social media, etc). Help students realize that they know valuable information that you don’t.
  • Clearly define instructor and learner roles/expectations. Example:
    • Instructor role. I strive to provide an organized environment with clear challenging expectations. I want to facilitate opportunities for you to express your opinions. I will provide access to resources you need to succeed in the course. I will provide timely useful feedback, typically within 1 week after the assignment due date, but longer written assignments may take up to 10 working days. I try to respond to all student communication within 24 - 48 hours. I may not respond after 6:00 pm on weekdays or on weekends.
    • Learner role. I expect you to adhere to all aspects of the WSU Student Code. Be responsible for your learning. Be prepared. Identify knowledge and skills that you want to learn, and those that are challenging for you to learn. Be proactive in communicating questions and needs. Work hard and be persistent. Plan and use your time effectively. Learn to use Canvas effectively (notification settings, discussions, assignment submission and feedback, quizzes, etc). Keep track of the points you’ve earned towards your grade. If you are uncertain of assignment requirements, be responsible for seeking clarification before submitting the assignment.
  • Invite/use humor effectively 
    • Have a sense of humor about your own mistakes. 
    • Use humor (funny story or anecdote) before introducing a challenging concept. This can relax students and help with the uptake of more abstract concepts. 
  • Maximize student choice/control/autonomy.  
  • Attend to nonverbal communication, for yourself and for the students. 
    • Be sure to smile occasionally.
    • Attend to student facial expressions. Notice if they look puzzled and ask what they are thinking.     
  • Provide opportunities for students to share their failures and comebacks with each other, like solutions/tips that helped them through a research assignment. Hearing that other students are struggling and finding ways to work through a challenge helps them know they are not alone and also helps build social connections between students.
  • Build capacity. 
  • Consider not grading on a curve. Explain how this can create a non-competitive culture in the classroom.
    • Provide opportunities for students to set individual goals and track their own progress.
    • Provide resources to help students build skills they may not be prepared with.  
    • Create a Google document where students who have just completed an assignment can leave tips for next semester’s students.
  • Encourage transparency.  
    • Be transparent with students. Tell them what to expect. Follow through. 
    • Provide opportunities for students to provide formative course evaluation feedback such as after taking an exam or at midterms. Debrief the feedback, explain the rationale, admit failures and make changes where appropriate.  
  • Provide opportunities for students to disclose concerns or things they might be anxious about. This can open doors for individual support or referrals. Example:
    • Last question on a syllabus quiz asks “Is there anything you would like me to know about you and how I can best support you this semester?” Responses may allow you to address barriers, help them select a different course, clarify expectations, and/or build confidence about their potential to succeed in your course.
  • Helpful guidelines and information for faculty to work with students requiring accommodations, adjustments or modifications. 


Student Communication, Advising, Mentoring

  • When possible, state grading rubrics clearly and follow them.
  • State rules and consequences regarding late assignment submissions clearly and follow them uniformly with every student.
  • Constantly remind students that there are academic resources available to help them
    • Include a statement in the syllabus that says how you are willing to support students. Example: “I want you to succeed!  For assistance with this course, contact me through email, stop by my office during office hours or make an appointment. In addition to helping you with course content, I can also provide information about campus resources and careers options in (major).”


Course Structure

  • Design and require a larger number of smaller assignments, rather than a smaller number of larger assignments, especially early in the course. This allows students to demonstrate their understanding (or lack thereof) sooner rather than later. It also allows faculty to provide interim feedback.
  • Utilize peer reviews. 
  • Consider adjusting submission deadlines to earlier than 11:59 p.m. in favor of healthy sleep habits. Be explicit about this reasoning. Allow students to appeal for flexibility if needed according to individual circumstances.  For students who work night shifts, consider assignments due an hour before class begins.
  • Avoid structuring assignments to require work over holidays and semester breaks in favor of downtime for students. Be explicit about this reasoning. 
  • State the purpose of assignments and what tools are needed to complete them.
  • Give homework that is similar in task to exams.
  • Consider indicating "preferred deadline" and "extended deadline" options for some or all assignments. Some research shows that doing so can lower students' stress and improve their coping with illnesses and emergencies, without impact on grades.
  • Be organized, pleasant and on time for your classes.  Model behavior that you (the instructor) want your students to exhibit.  If you fall from your standard (as we all will), apologize and carry on.
  • Consider predictability.
    • Plan a pattern of due dates/feedback to occur on the same day(s) of the week and time of day. For example, units/topics always end on Thursday and exams/quizzes always open from Thursday - Sunday. Students receive feedback on Tuesday.  
    • Establish Routines. Examples: 
      • Online courses: Post weekly video announcements same day and time each week
      • Face-to-face courses: Start/end lectures in a similar way each day
      • Use similar exam prep and debrief procedures for each exam
  • Incorporate mental health education in your classroom! Add the Mental Well-Being Course or TAO as an assignment for your class.