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How to Help a Distressed Student

Each member of the campus community can offer assistance when one sees another in distress. Distressed or distressing behavior may actually be a "cry for assistance." Here are some tips you can consider in interacting with a student before she/he are able to get professional help. 

If you decide to help, then do it with HEART

Hear

  • Stop what you're doing and really listen to what the student is saying.

Empathize 

  • Acknowledge what you have heard and let the student know you understand.
  • Express concern and interest.
  • Avoid criticizing or sounding judmental.
  • Remember, even if the problem does not seem real to you, it may be very important to the student.

 Assess

  • Ask the student, "What have you thought about doing?"
  • Discuss the pros and cons of different courses of action.
  • Don't expect to have all the answers.

 Refer

  • Be honest about your concerns and limitations.
  • The student may need professional help.
  • Do not agree to be secretive about his or her problem.
  • Help the student find appropriate resources.
  • Offer to go with him or her to talk with a professional.

 Tell

  • Do not ignore comments about suicide, violence, or harm to others.
  • Seek professional assistance.

* adapted from Fairleigh Dickinson University

NOTE:   In cases where a student's behavior poses an imminent threat to you or another, contact KU Public Safety & Police Services immediately at 610-683-4001.