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How Staff & Faculty Can Help

As faculty or staff, you are someone who will have regular contact with students and will be able to recognize when a student is not doing well.  If you have noticed signs of distress and are concerned for a student, here are some ways that you can help:

General Suggestions

  • Talk to the student in private unless the student requests the presence of another person
  • Respect the privacy of the student but do not promise confidentiality as you may be mandated to report
  • Respect the student's values and beliefs, and avoid criticizing or sounding judgmental
  • Know your personal limits as a helper—you may not feel comfortable trying to help a student cope with a particular problem (and that’s okay), but you could help them get connected with a department which can provide the necessary services

Providing Support

  • You can start the conversation by naming what you have noticed and expressing care and concern (e.g. “I’ve noticed that you have been absent from class a lot and you haven’t been turning in assignments.  I’m worried that you’re not doing okay”)   
  • Listen to their concerns without judgment, interrupting, or advice-giving (unless it is requested)
  • Ask questions to both help you understand their experience and convey that you care 
  • The simplest way of helping can be by providing an ear and being present with the student 
  • Try to be encouraging and hopeful, but not minimizing of their experience
  • Normalize that it is a positive sign to seek help when they need it
  • Ask directly if the student is thinking about harming themselves if you are concerned that they are thinking this (e.g. “Sometimes when people feel really down and things aren’t going well, they might think about suicide.  I’m wondering if you’re having thoughts of suicide?”)
  • Avoid telling them how they should feel, placing blame, or focusing on “fixing” the problem
  • Before moving on to potential solutions or making a referral, make sure to give them space to “just talk”
  • Be clear that there are limits to your support and that professional help is available

Making a referral

Once the student has agreed to reach out to the Counseling Center, you can:

  • Allow the student the reach out on their own
  • Accompany the student to the Counseling Center between 9am-12pm and 1pm-4pm
  • Help the student call (970) 351-2496
  • If you call our center on behalf of a student, identify yourself as faculty or staff and let us know that you are assisting a student
  • Provide us with information about the perceived level of urgency (immediate need, tomorrow, next week) and a brief description of what you have noticed or what the student has shared with you
  • Pass the phone to the student and allow them to talk to our staff

After the Referral

  • Follow up with the student after you make a referral.  It helps communicate your concern and interest
  • Continue to maintain clear and consistent boundaries and expectations with the student in your staff or faculty role
  • Remember to also seek support for yourself and engage in self-care as needed

Additional Support

If the student does not immediately want to reach out to our office and you continue to feel concerned, you can:

  • Express your acceptance of their hesitation so that your own relationship with the student is not jeopardized
  • If the student emphatically says "no," respect that decision
  • Contact the Counseling Center at (970) 351-2496 for guidance on how to help guide the student toward getting assistance and support
  • Reach out to the Office of Student Outreach and Support.  They can reach out and follow up with the student as needed
  • Submit a Health & Safety Report if your department policy/university policy requires you to do so
    • Health & Safety Reports are not overseen by the Counseling Center
    • Health & Safety Reports are not confidential
  • If you suspect that your student needs immediate assistance, or their situation is unsafe or life-threatening, call 911 or UNC Police Department at (970) 351-2245