How to Help

Although there is no "perfect" way to approach a distressed student, the following guidelines can be helpful:

Approach the student respectfully and ask to speak with them privately.

Identify why you are concerned by using clear and concrete examples in non-judgmental terms, i.e. "I’ve noticed you’ve been absent from class lately and I’m concerned."

Listen to thoughts and feelings in a sensitive way. Communicate understanding by repeating back the essence of what the student told you. Try to include both content and feeling. For example, "It sounds like you are struggling to manage the demands of school, work and other life demands, and you are feeling overwhelmed by it all.”

Avoid interrupting, judging, evaluating, and criticizing even if the student asks for your opinion. It is important to respect the student’s value system, even if you don’t agree with it.

Maintain and respect healthy boundaries.

Understand you can’t make them seek help; this is  decision they have to make on their own.

Do not discuss your concerns with other students.

Know your limits. Some signs that you may have over-extended yourself include:

  • Feeling stressed out or overwhelmed by the situation
  • Feeling resentful or angry at the student
  • Feeling like you are spending more time than normal with the student
  • Feeling afraid or concerned about your well-being
  • Having thoughts of "adopting" or otherwise rescuing the student
  • Reliving similar experiences of your own
  • Feeling like you are operating outside your area of expertise/competency

Offer to walk the student over to CAPS if you believe it would be helpful or simply encourage them to call the CAPS office at their campus to set up an intake appointment.


Page last updated 3:24 PM, May 25, 2018