Last update: March 23, 2017 by Monica Wolter

Everyone plays an important role in supporting student mental health and wellbeing.

Faculty and staff can use this guide to know what to look for, say, and do.

On this page:

The basics

If you have immediate safety concerns for yourself or others

Call 9.1.1 and Campus Security
First, call Emergency Services: 9.1.1
Then, call Campus Security: 604.822.2222

Assisting students in distress involves three basic principles: See, say, and do something.

See something

Pay attention to warning signs

You may be the first person to see signs that a student is in distress. It’s important to pay attention to warning signs. Mental health concerns can have a significant impact on everyday life, including academics.

Say something

Trust your instincts

Say something if you’re worried about a student or if they leave you feeling concerned. It’s okay to share your concerns about a student with someone else at the University in order to provide the student with support.

Do something

Reach out and help

A student may not know help is available or may hesitate to ask for it. Connect the student with resources and identify your concerns using Early Alert.

Are you a student concerned about another student?

Find out how you can help your classmate or friend:

 


 

How to help a student in distress: 4 steps for faculty and staff

Know what to look for, say, and do.

Step 1: Observe

Take a moment to reflect on what you’ve seen and heard. Write down your answers to the following questions:

  • What did I see?
  • What did I hear?
  • How many similar incidents involving the student have I witnessed?

Steps 2 and 3: Reflect and respond

Think about what you have seen and heard, and then use the examples below to help determine next steps. It's OK to feel unsure about how to respond and you don't need to have all the answers. Choosing any response over remaining silent is always the best option.

    How to respond: Vancouver campus How to respond: Okanagan campus
 

Higher risk of harm

"I am concerned about the student's immediate safety."

  • Behaviour that is violent, destructive, harmful, aggressive, or threatening to self or others

Call 9.1.1 and Campus Security

First, call Emergency Services:
9.1.1

Then, call Campus Security:
604.822.2222

Call 9.1.1 and Campus Security

First, call Emergency Services:
9.1.1

Then, call Campus Security:
250.807.8111

    How to respond: Vancouver campus How to respond: Okanagan campus
 

Moderate risk of harm

  • Self-harming behaviour such as cutting, hitting, or restricted eating
  • Expresses hopelessness or references suicide
  • Current or past experience of violence or sexual abuse
  • Traumatic event such as loss of a loved one
  • Mental health appears to be significantly deteriorating
  • For student sexual assault concerns, find response and support resources at facultystaff.ubc.ca/sexual-assault/assisting-student-survivors.

Contact Counselling Services

First, call Counselling Services and request a same-day urgent appointment for the student, and/or request to consult with a counsellor:
604.822.3811

Then, encourage the student to go directly to Counselling Services.

After-hours:

Call Campus Security:
604.822.2222, or

Contact the Crisis Centre
604.872.3311

Contact Health and Wellness

First, call Health and Wellness and request a same-day urgent appointment for the student, and/or request to consult with a counsellor:
250.807.9270

Then, encourage the student to go directly to Health and Wellness.

After-hours:

Call Campus Security:
250.807.8111, or

Contact the Crisis Line
1.888.353.CARE (1.888.353.2273)

    How to respond: Vancouver campus How to respond: Okanagan campus
 

Lower risk of harm

"I am concerned about the student's general wellbeing."

  • Student may be experiencing relationship problems, homesickness, a traumatic event, lack of social support, or physical health problems
  • Student may be experiencing difficulties such as depression, anxiety, agitation, grief, or anger
  • Marked changes in appearance or hygiene
  • Substance use concerns
  • Academic concerns

Connect the student to support

Mental health concerns and/or difficulties coping

Counselling Services

Primary health (family doctor care) & mental health concerns, including access to specialist care

Student Health Service

Accommodations for disabilities, including chronic mental health conditions

Access and Diversity

Academic, financial, or other concerns

Academic Advising Office, Enrolment Services Professional, or the Student Services website:
students.ubc.ca

Connect the student to support

Mental health concerns and/or difficulties coping

Health and Wellness

Primary health concerns (family doctor care)

Health and Wellness

Accommodations for disabilities, including chronic mental health condition

Disability Resource Centre

Academic, financial, or other concerns

Student Services & Financial Support:
students.ok.ubc.ca

Unusual or particularly complex student concerns

For questions about concerns or student conduct not addressed on this page, contact:

Vancouver campus
Student Services
, Office of the Vice-President, Students
604.827.2565
urgent.vps@ubc.ca

Okanagan campus
Health and Wellness, UBC Okanagan
250.807.9270
healthwellness.okanagan@ubc.ca

 

Step 4: Use Early Alert

Always submit an Early Alert concern as part of your response, regardless of the perceived severity. Early Alert allows faculty, staff, and TAs to identify their concerns about students sooner and in a more coordinated way.

Submit an Early Alert concern

Early Alert:

  • Provides support for all students
  • Allows for earlier support before difficulties become overwhelming
  • Results in less time and fewer resources needed for students to recover
  • Collects concerns from different sources across campus, allowing for a better understanding of individual student needs and how to provide appropriate support in a coordinated way
  • Protects student privacy using a secure system
  • Is not connected to the student’s academic record

Sexual assault is a unique and complex experience. The University is implementing a survivor-centered approach that strives to empower a survivor to make their own choices about who they may disclose to, and their decisions to access support services or file a report.  If you submit an Early Alert please focus on any indicators (behaviors) of the concern without identifying the underlying reason (sexual assault) for the concern. This ensures that the student retains the choice as to how much information they wish to disclose and to whom. You can also connect the student directly to the Student Support Services Managers who oversee the early alerts.

Early alert is not a reporting mechanism for sexual assault, and identifying a sexual assault through Early Alert could compromise a student’s right to privacy and create further stigma.

Help a Survivor of Sexual Assault

Learn more about Early Alert

Early Alert training for faculty, staff, TAs, and advisors


 

Talking to a student in distress

What to say

1. Acknowledge

  • Be specific about the behavior that you’ve noticed
  • Express your concern
"I’ve noticed you’ve been absent from class lately and I’m concerned about you."

2. Inquire and listen

  • Ask open-ended questions
  • Be patient and give your full attention
"How is everything going? Are you okay?"

3. Provide information and encouragement

  • Provide the student with information about resources
  • Encourage the student to contact one of the resources provided
"I’m concerned about you and I want to support you. I’d like to share a few resources with you that might help."

4. Follow up

  • Enter an Early Alert concern
  • If feasible, follow up with the student but don’t insist on knowing what the student has done
"How are things since our talk last week?"

 

Where students can go for help

Encouraging a student to seek support

  • Point out that help is available and seeking help is a sign of strength
  • Acknowledge that seeking help can feel difficult at first

If a student doesn't want help

  • Respect their decision. Accepting or refusing assistance must be left up to the student, except in emergencies
  • Don’t force the issue or trick them into going to a referred resource
  • Try to leave room for reconsideration later on

 

Faculty and staff: Take care of your wellbeing

Taking care of your own wellbeing is important.

Resources for faculty and staff:

Healthy UBC Initiatives

Healthy UBC Initiatives are free, ongoing, university-wide programs, trainings, and educational opportunities that focus on promoting positive mental health and physical wellbeing for staff, faculty, and departments.

Healthy UBC Initiatives, Vancouver campus

Healthy UBC Initiatives, Okanagan campus

Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP)

Faculty, staff, and their family members can find support through the confidential UBC Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP):
1.800.387.4765

Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP)


 

Download the green or blue folder

Printable guides to helping students in distress:


Vancouver campus green folder: Assisting Students in Distress (11 x 17" tabloid, double-sided)


Okanagan campus blue folder: Assisting Students in Distress (11 x 17" tabloid, double-sided)

 

 

Questions, comments, or requests for copies of the Green or Blue Folders

Vancouver campus
Student Services, Office of the Vice-President, Students
604.827.2565
urgent.vps@ubc.ca

Okanagan campus
Health and Wellness, UBC Okanagan
250.807.9270
healthwellness.okanagan@ubc.ca