How can you help a student in distress?

How can you help a student in distress?

You are likely in a unique position to observe a student having problems, and intervene. We know that students are more likely to utilize campus support services when a staff/faculty member, a parent, or friend refers them. It is not your responsibility to assess or treat behavioral or mental health issues. However, your ability to recognize the signs of distress and approach a student can make all the difference. It is best to state your concerns directly to the student in a non-judgmental way and make a referral to the Broncos CARE Team or the appropriate support service.

Signs that a student is in distress may include:

  • Difficulties with family/home environment
  • Self-harm concerns
  • Difficulties with adjusting to the college environment
  • Unable to locate a student
  • Financial concerns
  • Concerns about victimization
  • Mental health issues
  • Concerns about homelessness or food insecurity
  • Changes in behavior or disruptive behavior
  • Concerns about dropping out of college
  • Physical health issues
  • Relationship issues

What you can do to help:

1 - Start the Conversation

Trust your instincts. Be respectful and kind. Arrange a time to speak privately. Be specific about the behavior you have observed. Use open-ended questions. Do not be afraid to ask whether a student is considering suicide - this will not put the idea in their mind.

2 - Listen

Do not promise confidentiality (some situations may need to be reported). Be patient and allow the student to speak freely. Listen non-judgmentally. Validate the student’s feelings and avoid being dismissive.

3 - Be Supportive and Refer

Encourage the student to seek help and give them names or numbers. Offer to call together or walk them to the appropriate resource. Decide together what the plan is. Be clear that your door is still open and follow up later to see how they are doing.

How does the Broncos CARE Team work?

Once a referral is received, the Associate Dean of Students, or designee, will review it and determine if it needs an immediate response. If so, the ADOS will reach out to the appropriate Team member(s) or other campus resources as appropriate. If not, the referral is sent out to the Team, collateral information is gathered, and a response is determined that addresses the concerns referred.

To make a referral to the CARE Team, complete an online “Student of Concern” form.

The Broncos CARE Team meets on a regular basis. Typically, someone from the Team will be identified to reach out to the individual who has been referred and will help identify what services, support and/or resources would assist the student. A plan is then developed to address the individual’s concern. Whenever possible, every effort is made to circle back to the referral source to apprise them of the outcome.