Students in Crisis
If a student is in a serious mental health crisis, you may observe the following:
- Suicidal statements or suicide attempts
- Written or verbal threats, or attempted homicide or assault
- Destruction of property or other criminal acts
- Extreme anxiety resulting in panic reactions
- Inability to communicate (e.g., slurred speech, disjointed thoughts)
- Loss of contact with reality (e.g., seeing or hearing things that aren't there, expressing beliefs or actions at odds with reality)
- Highly disruptive behavior (e.g., hostility, aggression, violence towards self or others)
A crisis is a situation in which an individual's usual style of coping is no longer effective due to intensity of one’s emotions.
How You Can Help Students Experiencing High Distress
What To Do When You Suspect a Serious Crisis
If you believe there may be imminent danger of harm to a student or someone else, immediately call the UT Dallas Police (972-883-2222) or the Dallas Police Department (911) for assistance. You may also consider walking the student to the Student Counseling Center.
If the student does not appear to be in immediate danger, but rather there is concern regarding their behavior you can also contact the Dean of Students office.
What You Can Do for a Student Experiencing Stress
If you choose to approach a student you are concerned about or if a student seeks you out:
- Talk to the student in private. Give the student your undivided attention. Even just a few minutes of engaged listening and validation on your part may be enough to help the student feel comfortable about what to do next.
- Be direct and nonjudgmental. Express your concern in behavioral, nonjudgmental terms. For example, say something like "I've noticed you've been absent from class lately, and I'm concerned," rather than "Why have you missed so much class lately?"
- Listen sensitively and normalize. Remember to let the student talk first. Listen to thoughts and feelings in a sensitive, non-threatening way. Communicate understanding by repeating back the essence of what the student has told you. For example, "It sounds like you're not accustomed to such a big campus and you're feeling left out of things. I know that that is often common for students to feel that way at first."
- Refer. Let them know help is available, and emphasize that seeking help is a sign of strength. Make some suggestions about places to go for help, such as the Student Counseling Center.
- Follow up. Following up is an important part of the process. Check with the student later to find out how he or she is doing, and provide support as appropriate.
Dealing with students in distress can be a stressful and taxing experience. Be sure to take care of yourself as well by seeking support from colleagues and supervisors. It may also be helpful to talk with a counselor.