In your role as a faculty or staff member, you may encounter students in distress or in need of support. Use this information as a guide to help you better support and care for students.
Where to Begin
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 folder 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. If you’ve reached out to the student
If a student doesn't want help...
- Be specific about the signs and behaviours that you’ve noticed (i.e., "I've noticed you've missed the last two midterms.")
- Express your concern (i.e., "I am concerned and wanted to check in to see how you're doing.")
- Reassure the student, who may be struggling, that it's 100% OK to reach out for help from UBC faculty and staff
2. Respond with empathy and normalize stress
- 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 (i.e., "If you change your mind you can always access the resources I've provided to you."
3. Ask open-ended questions. Giving students an opportunity to talk often has a calming effect and helps to clarify their concerns:
- Listen actively to help the student feel heard and understood (i.e., "It sounds like you're facing a lot of difficulties in your life right now.")
- When stress seems related to academic pressures, acknowledge that stress is a normal part of the university experience
4. Discuss Resource Options
- What have you tried so far?
- What do you think the main challenge is?
- Do you have the support that you need?
- Point out that help is available; while seeking help can feel difficult, it is a sign of strength
- Provide the student with information about resources and support
- Encourage the student to identify the next steps they plan to take