Last update: October 1, 2020

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

Use this guide to familiarize yourself with common signs of distress and the steps you can take to offer assistance.

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: 

Recognize signs of distress

You may be the first person to see signs that a student is in distress, or they may come to you specifically for help. Use this guide to familiarize yourself with common signs of distress, from mild to severe, and the steps you can take to offer assistance.

Reach out and refer

Your role is not to diagnose or treat students, but you are in a position to make them aware of the help available. Early intervention plays a key role in helping students get back on track.

Access expert advice when needed

There may be times when you need more advice about how to support a student in distress. For more severe and urgent concerns, you can consult with:

1. UBC Student Health Service 604.822.7011

2. UBC Counselling Services 604.822.3811

Please identify yourself as a faculty member who would like to consult about a student in distress

Supporting Students in Distress in a Virtual Learning Environment

Key messages for faculty & staff

As students work to achieve their academic goals during a time of remote learning, they are also balancing multiple challenges and priorities all of which impact their capacity to learn and thrive. We all have a role to play in supporting student wellbeing. Opportunities to support all students’ wellbeing can be embedded in your learning environment proactively - you can explore strategies for embedding wellbeing in your online course design. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

Challenges students may be experiencing

Students bring their unique selves and situations to any learning environment - in the classroom, and online. In addition to indicators identified in the Green Folder, students are likely to present with more during this time of the pandemic than during typical in-person academic terms.

Academics

They are worried about failing, completing the term, graduation requirements, and other specific course/program uncertainties. They may not have access to reliable WiFi or suitable workspaces. It will be difficult to concentrate, stay motivated, and focused. There are many factors that increase the challenges students will be facing as they try and navigate through their academic work.

Accessibility

Students with disabilities or ongoing health conditions may have additional needs that require different degrees and levels of support in this new environment. Please be mindful, and reach out to the Centre for Accessibility as a resource.

General uncertainty

Students are worried and scared for their families, inability to make plans and about their futures. Summer jobs, internships, and other arrangements are put on hold or cancelled. Some are completely isolated from family and friends which increase stress and worry. International students may have added stress due to visa concerns, lack of funding, and isolation from family. Students are struggling with a lack of purpose during this time.

Finances

Students and their families are concerned about covering tuition fees, cost of books and supplies, rent, and food. For some families, income has been significantly impacted. Students may have difficulty getting a summer job to cover their expenses or provide for their families. Due to this pandemic, financial concerns create extensive challenges.

Living environments

Students may be in environments and relational dynamics that are unsafe, abusive, and/or invalidating. Being in this space can negatively impact their well-being and their ability to be fully present in learning spaces. The physical spaces at home may also be challenging and restrictive. Students may not have access to quiet spaces to study or participate in online classes. They may also be juggling several roles at home (student, partner, parent, etc.) or caring for other family members or young children.

Mental Health & Wellness

Students have not only left behind their classes and academics, but also future goals and aspirations. There is a true sense of grief, sadness, and loss throughout our community. Mental health concerns (depression, anxiety, substance use, suicidal ideation, etc.) are causing significant challenges in being able to perform academic and personal duties.

Are you a student concerned about another student?

Find out how you can help your classmate or friend:

 


 

Having a conversation with a student in distress: 5 steps for faculty and staff

Step 1: If you're reaching out to the student

  • Be specific about the signs and behaviours you’ve noticed

    • Ex: "I've noticed you've missed the last two midterms."

  • Express your concern

    • Ex: "I am concerned and wanted to check in to see how you're doing."

  • Reassure the student that reaching out to students who may be struggling is something all UBC faculty and staff do to help

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 pressure them into going to a referred resource

  • Try to leave room for reconsideration later on

    • Ex: "If you change your mind you can always access the resources I've provided to you."

Step 2: Respond with empathy and normalize stress

  • Listen actively and help the student feel heard and understood
    • Ex: "It sounds like you're facing some difficulties in your life right now."
  • Where stress seems related to academic pressures, acknowledge that stress is a normal part of the university experience

Step 3: Ask open-ended questions

Giving students an opportunity to talk often has a calming effect and helps to clarify their concerns

  • "What have you tried so far?"
  • "What do you think the main challenge is?"
  • "Do you have the support that you need?"

Step 4: Discuss resource options

  • Point out that help is available; while seeking help can feel difficult at first, it is a sign of strength
  • Provide the student with information about resources and supports (see below)
  • Encourage the student to identify the next steps they plan to take

Imminent Risk of Harm

  • Active thoughts of suicide with a plan or suicide attempt 
  • Behaviour that is violent, destructive, aggressive, or threatening to self or others 
  • Student is confused, hallucinating, or has trouble remaining conscious 
Vancouver Campus

In BC
(Not on campus)

In Canada
(Outside BC)

Outside of Canada Okanagan Campus
  1. Student to go to nearest hospital
    Call 911

  2. Call UBC Campus Security
    604.822.2222

  1. Student to go to nearest hospital
    Call 911
  1. Student to go to nearest hospital
    Call 911
  1. Student to go to nearest hospital
    Call local emergency services phone number or call 911

    BC emergency services may be able to assist

Call 911 and Campus Security

First, call Emergency Services: 911

Then, call Campus Security:
250.807.8111

Enter an Early Alert concern at earlyalert.ubc.ca (monitored 7 days/week)

High level of distress

Examples:

  • Deterioration in personal appearance and hygiene and significant impairment with daily tasks
  • Expressions of severe hopelessness or references to suicide
  • Self-harm behaviour such as recent cutting or hitting, severely restricted eating with weight loss/severe binge eating
  • Substance use concerns
  • Loss of touch with reality/ severely disorganized thinking
  • Physical health concerns
Vancouver Campus

In BC
(Not on campus)

In Canada
(Outside BC)

Outside of Canada Okanagan Campus
During office hours
After-hours or in an emergency
During office hours
After-hours or in an emergency
During office hours
  • Student's family doctor or nearest medical clinic

After-hours or in an emergency
During office hours
  • Student's family doctor or nearest medical clinic

After-hours or in an emergency
  • Nearest hospital emergency department (24/7)
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)

Enter an Early Alert concern at earlyalert.ubc.ca (monitored 7 days/week)

All other mental health concerns

Examples:

  • Low or irritable mood with change in energy, appetite, sleep, and/or concentration, which is impacting daily functioning
  • Persistent worry, obsessions, agitation, irrationality, racing thoughts, panic attacks
  • Flashbacks to a traumatic event, intrusive memories and thoughts
  • Interpersonal conflict
  • Lack of social support
  • Disordered eating
Vancouver Campus

In BC
(Not on campus)

In Canada
(Outside BC)

Outside of Canada Okanagan Campus
During office hours
After-hours or anytime
  • UBC Student Assistance Program by Aspiria
    Free, 24/7 personal counselling and life coaching, offered in many languages through phone, video-counselling, or e-counselling.
  • Here2Talk
    24/7 access for students anywhere in the world, single sessions personal counselling by phone or online chat
  • Wellness Together Canada
    24/7 access for Canadians anywhere in the world. Online assessment and connection to e-mental health resources, individual counselling by phone, text, video.
  • Medimap BC
    See available walk-in clinics and wait times, ansd book an appointment before visiting the location
  • Mind Health BC
    Take an online mental health assessment and find resources
  • Health Link BC 
    Call 811 or visit the website to check physical health symptoms and find resources
  • First Nations and Inuit Hope for Wellness Helpline
    1.855.242.3310
During office hours
After-hours or anytime
  • UBC Student Assistance Program by Aspiria
    Free, 24/7 personal counselling and life coaching, offered in many languages through phone, video-counselling, or e-counselling.
  • Here2Talk
    24/7 access for students anywhere in the world, single sessions personal counselling by phone or online chat
  • Wellness Together Canada
    24/7 access for Canadians anywhere in the world. Online assessment and connection to e-mental health resources, individual counselling by phone, text, video.
  • Medimap BC
    See available walk-in clinics and wait times, ansd book an appointment before visiting the location
  • Mind Health BC
    Take an online mental health assessment and find resources
  • Health Link BC 
    Call 811 or visit the website to check physical health symptoms and find resources
  • First Nations and Inuit Hope for Wellness Helpline
    1.855.242.3310
After-hours or anytime
After-hours or anytime
  • UBC Student Assistance Program by Aspiria
    Free, 24/7 personal counselling and life coaching, offered in many languages through phone, video-counselling, or e-counselling.
  • Here2Talk
    24/7 access for students anywhere in the world, single sessions personal counselling by phone or online chat
  • Wellness Together Canada
    24/7 access for Canadians anywhere in the world. Online assessment and connection to e-mental health resources, individual counselling by phone, text, video.

Call 911 and Campus Security

First, call Emergency Services: 911

Then, call Campus Security:
250.807.8111

Enter an Early Alert concern at earlyalert.ubc.ca (monitored 7 days/week)

General support

Examples

  • Stress about exams, deadlines, grades, roommates, relationships, finances, adjustment to university
  • Advice about healthy eating, sleep, or sexual health
Vancouver Campus

In BC
(Not on campus)

In Canada
(Outside BC)

Outside of Canada
During office hours
  • Visit the Wellness Centre
    page on students.ubc.ca for up to date information on services available in the Wellness Centre
  • Centre for Accessibility
    Email or go online to book an appointment. Accommodations for disabilities including chronic mental health conditions
After-hours or anytime
During office hours
  • Centre for Accessibility
    Email or go online to book an appointment. Accommodations for disabilities including chronic mental health conditions
After-hours or anytime
During office hours
  • Centre for Accessibility
    Email or go online to book an appointment. Accommodations for disabilities including chronic mental health conditions
After-hours or anytime
During office hours
  • Centre for Accessibility
    Email or go online to book an appointment. Accommodations for disabilities including chronic mental health conditions
After-hours or anytime

Enter an Early Alert concern at earlyalert.ubc.ca (monitored 7 days/week)

 

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
604.822.3644
urgent.vps@ubc.ca

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

 

Step 5: 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

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.

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.

Help a Survivor of Sexual Assault

Learn more about Early Alert

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


 

Where students can go for help

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, blue or SVPRO folder (Vancouver and Okanagan)

Printable guides to helping students in distress:


 

Vancouver campus green folder Fall 2020: Supporting Students in Distress in a Virtual Learning Environment (6 pages, 8.5 x 11")


 

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


 

Vancouver campus SVPRO folder: Supporting Survivors of Sexual Violence (11 x 17" tabloid, double-sided)


 

Okanagan campus SVPRO folderSupporting Survivors of Sexual Violence (11 x 17" tabloid, double-sided)

Questions or comments

Vancouver campus
Student Services, Office of the Vice-President, Students
604.822.3644
urgent.vps@ubc.ca

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