How to support a student

staff member speaking with studentOftentimes faculty or staff members are the first to notice a student might be struggling or in distress. You can provide useful information to assist the student in getting help. You should not take on the role of parent or counsellor or try to diagnose a student.

When responding to students needing support, it is important to understand the following steps:

  1. Recognize the indicators of mental illness
  2. Respond to the student in a way that is appropriate to the situation at hand and the existing relationship you have with the student
  3. Refer the student to the appropriate resources so that they can access the services available

Tips for speaking with someone you think might be struggling

  • Meet in a private place where you won’t be interrupted
  • Express your concern in a positive tone and point out specific behaviours that concern you
  • Ask how things are going for the person
  • Listen with empathy and without judgment, encourage them to elaborate
  • Remember, opening up can be difficult and emotional for both you and the person you are speaking with
  • Avoid promising to keep the person's concerns a secret. If the person expresses something that might indicate a safety risk, you should always contact someone else who can help
  • Ensure you let the person know about the different options to get help

Where to refer people on campus

For urgent concerns during office hours, contact Counselling Services (519-888-4567, ext. 32655) or Health Services (519-888-4096).

The following resources can be reached 24/7: 

  • Police Services (519-888-4567 ext. 22222)
  • Good2Talk (1-866-925-5454)
  • Here 24/7 (1-844-437-3247)
  • Grand River Hospital (519-749-4300)

For a larger list of resources both on and off-campus please visit our Wellness Resources Database.

How to respond to a distressing email from a student

  • Validate the student's concern.
  • Inform them of the available resources and helplines. Provide a link to Campus Wellness and ensure them that our services are confidential.
  • If you think the student might be at risk of harming themselves, encourage them strongly to go to the hospital and contact someone they trust in person.

Mental health training options

The University offers online training about mental health and how you can respond and refer students needing further support, which you can find at More Feet on the Ground.

You can also participate in in-person training, for more information see our Training page.

Print and digital resources and handouts

If you'd like to put some Campus Wellness information in your syllabus or course slides, you can download our Campus Wellness Overview (PDF)  or Campus Wellness Overview Slides (PPT).

You can also request printed materials to have on hand in your offices, visit our Request Materials page for more information. Resources include takeaway postcards for our department, our Do You Need Help poster, Mental Health Support Resources business cards, and more.

Staff and faculty resources

If you are a faculty or staff member who is seeking personal health care or mental health support, please see the Employee Assistance Program or contact Occupational Health.