Resource KIT

Working with distressed students

  • Know the warning signs
  • Inform the student of your concern
  • Take action

Know the warning signs:

According to the American Association of Suicidology, an individual at acute risk for suicidal behavior will most often display some or many of the following signs:

  • I ideation
  • S substance abuse
  • P purposelessness
  • A anxiety
  • T trapped
  • H hopelessness
  • W withdrawal
  • A anger
  • R recklessness
  • M mood change

Inform the student of your concern.

Starting a conversation with a student of concern...
It is an understandable and appropriate response if you feel nervous or anxious about the prospect of speaking with a student about your concern for him/her. Knowing that you may be the first and critical contact offering assistance and help to the student in distress may be daunting. However, your efforts greatly improve the student's continuing safety and future well-being. Remember, talking to a student about suicide does not cause them to become suicidal. Speak with the student in a location where the conversation will be private, e.g., after class or during office hours. Be blunt and ask the question. "Are you thinking of hurting or killing yourself?" "Have you been feeling so down that you are thinking of ending your life?" If the answer is no, let them know you are still concerned about their well-being, continue to use active listening and validate their feelings. Share your concerns with someone else. If they say "yes" and warning signs are present, take action.

Take Action

Be positive and offer the student hope that treatment can be helpful. "I'm glad you shared this with me. That's the first step in getting help." Offer resource and referral information to the student. "I know someone who can help. I'd like to call him/her." Develop a plan with the student to seek help. "I'm concerned about how you're feeling. I will work with you to help you keep safe." Ask if s/he needs your assistance to initiate referral contact."Is there someone you would like to have with you right now?"