How to Identify & Respond to Students in Distress
Resources for Faculty & Staff
Red Folder resources to help recognize, respond, and refer distressed students.
When faced with academic and life challenges, students may feel alone, isolated, and even hopeless. These feelings can easily disrupt academic performance and may lead to diminished coping abilities and other serious consequences.
As a faculty or staff member, you may have frequent and prolonged contact and be the first person to notice a student in distress. As fellow members of the UCCS community, it is important that we respond with compassion.
Keep in mind students exhibiting concerning behaviors may be experiencing difficulties in other areas of their lives. Students sometimes feel they can’t share their struggles with family and friends but may be comfortable doing so with faculty or staff voluntarily, or you might notice a concern first.
By checking in about your observation, you may help save a student’s academic career or even their life. Faculty and staff are in a unique position to demonstrate care and compassion for students in distress.
The most common referral identifiers are sudden, unexpected, or unexplained.
- Behavioral or emotional changes
- Withdrawal or isolation
- Change in hygiene or appearance
- Excessive or inappropriate anger
- Decline in class attendance
- Erratic thoughts or behavior
- Expressing suicidal statements
- Disclosing housing or financial difficulties
We can further delineate identifiers into common categories:
- Safety Risks
You’ve identified a student in distress, and you’re concerned. Next, it’s important to appropriately respond. Whether it’s to a student you interact with frequently and know quite well, or a student you don’t know well at all, it’s still important to respond with care and compassion.
Tips: These are meant to be general guidelines rather than a checklist to follow for every situation. Some of these can’t be directly carried over in a virtual setting; however, the spirit of these guidelines can be maintained over the phone, through email, or a Teams call.
What About Privacy?
Appropriate consideration for student privacy should be given before information is shared with people other than those who are directly involved, or who you are reporting the information to (ie. CARE Team, Police).
Does the Student Need Immediate Assistance?
Please refer to the guidelines below based on your answer to the above question.
In addition to referring a student or coworker to resources, employees are required to report certain incidents directly to the Office of Institutional Equity (OIE). These include:
- Unwelcome spoken or physical behaviors that are sexual in nature, or
- Threats or actual violence against another person, or
- Retaliation, or
- Behavior based on a person’s identity or identities (protected class status: such as age, color, national origin, religion, and others).
Because it is sometimes difficult for people who have experienced trauma to share their experience - listen for clues the person is uncomfortable or is expressing that another person makes them feel unsafe.
Contact the Office of Institutional Equity (OIE) if you have any questions or concerns about whether you need to file a report, or if you have made a mandatory report and have additional information.
Visit the OIE Website for more information about reporting and resources.
Where Does a Report Go?
Trust your instincts. If an interaction leaves you feeling worried, alarmed, or threatened, fill out a report form to the CARE team.
The Campus Assessment, Response & Evaluation (CARE) Team was created to address the wellness and safety needs of students and the campus community.
CARE Team Response Process
- If you believe that an incident or circumstance has reached a level of concern you can submit a CARE report here. Submit a Concern / Report an Incident | Office of the Dean of Students (uccs.edu)
- Upon receipt of the care report, a CARE Team coordinator may reach out to you and request additional information.
- The CARE Team will evaluate the situation and determine what further steps are required.
- The CARE Team case lead will reach out to the student to offer support, assess any risk for health and/or safety, and provide follow-up services.
- Students are provided referrals to the appropriate on and off-campus resources.
- Reporting parties may not be actively involved in ongoing communication about the student but are welcome to follow up with questions or updates.