Don't second-guess yourself. If you think someone is in distress, they probably are. If you notice a situation and interpret the event as a problem, assume personal responsibility and know the skills necessary to implement help. All you need to do is be REALL.
Pay attention to the following indicators and Reach Out when you see them.
- frequently skipping classes
- missed assignments
- deterioration in work quality
- disorganized or erratic performance
- work with disturbing content
- acting differently/out of control
- withdrawing from friends and activities
- inappropriate or exaggerated behavior (e.g., overreacting to stress, highly agitated/irritable)
- fatigue, coming to class bleary eyed
- lack of personal hygiene
- increased use of alcohol or drugs, frequently hung-over
- significant changes in weight
- noticeable cuts, bruises, or burns on student
- experience of a trauma or a loss
- online postings that seem threatening or concerning
- talking about death (or "wanting out")
- taking life-threatening risks
One of the biggest barriers to reaching out is the worry that it’s none of our business or that students will be embarrassed. But students actually feel cared for and recognized when asked how they’re doing.
- DO: Speak with the student privately
- DON’T: Promise your confidentiality (CPS is confidential)
- DO: Focus concerns on behaviors that you have observed that concern you
- DON’T: Leave the student alone if you have concerns about their safety
- DO: Express willingness to help
Ways to start the conversation:
- "I'm worried about you, you seem stressed."
- "You seem down lately and you don't come out of your room much."
- "I've noticed you seem to be partying a lot more lately."
Ask open ended questions, and reflect what you hear:
- "What's bothering you?"
- "How have you been feeling lately?"
Asking about suicide is difficult but potentially life-saving and will not give someone the idea or make things worse. In fact, it may be a relief for the student to know you’re open to hearing about whatever they’re feeling.
- "Have you had thoughts about hurting yourself or ending your life?"
- "Have you been thinking that things would be easier if you weren't around?"
- Ask how the student has tried to cope, and what else the student thinks might help
- Take what they say seriously
- Give the student time to talk; know that you don’t have to fill silence
- Offer emotional support, understanding and patience
- Let them know they don't have to suffer alone
- Expect resistance and acknowledge their concern
- Acknowledge that depression and anxiety are real, common and treatable
- Don’t rush into problem solving
- Often after having a chance to vent, students will be more open to help
- Hear their pain and avoid judgment
- Inform them that the Counseling & Psychological Services are FREE and confidential
- Offer to accompany them to see a counselor or call the crisis hotline with them