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Faculty/Staff How to Help

Guidelines for talking with a student in distress:

  • Listen attentively and respectfully to their concerns.
  • Ask clarifying questions when needed.
  • Collaborate with the student about what actions or resources could help them.
  • Help the student recall effective methods used in the past to cope; help the student to do something constructive to take care of themselves.
  • Be willing to validate fears or reservations about seeking help.
  • Trust your insight and reactions while respecting the student’s own point of view.
  • When called for, let the student know you are worried about them. List specific behaviors or examples of why you or others are concerned.
  • If you are concerned the student may be feeling hopeless and might be thinking about ending their life, ask if they are contemplating suicide. It is important to remember that talking about suicide is a cry for help and is not to be ignored.
  • After the student leaves your office, you may wish to make some notes documenting your interactions.
  • Take a moment to consult with colleagues or other resources, including the Counseling Center, if you are unsure of how to proceed.

**This information was adapted with permission from the University of Florida’s Counseling Center.

  • If you are concerned about a student’s safety due to thoughts of suicide, visit Appalachian's Prevent Suicide (opens in a new tab) website.
  • If the student is unsure whether they have a problem, suggest the Counseling Center’s free online screenings (opens in a new tab) for depression, anxiety, eating disorders, alcohol use, bipolar disorder, and traumatic stress. These anonymous screenings can provide feedback and recommendations.
  • You can also offer the Counseling Center’s online self-help resources in addition to referrals to appropriate campus services. Some students may have their needs met simply by utilizing some of the recommended books, videos, apps, podcasts, and articles.