Supporting and Referring Students

Do you need urgent help? Are you in crisis, feeling unsafe, or worried you might hurt yourself or others? If you are experiencing a life-threatening issue, please call 911, visit our Get Help  Now, or contact the Campus Special Constable Service 519-888-4911 x2222.

Supporting students in need

Faculty or staff members may be the first to notice a student who 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 they can access the services available
person sitting on bench

Tips for speaking with a student you think might be struggling:

  • Meet in a private place where you won’t be interrupted (only if you’re comfortable doing so).
  • 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.
  • Ask how you could support them, or what they would find helpful. You may not be able to accommodate every aspect of their request, however being askes "how can I support you?" often means a great deal to the person who is struggling. Consider the request and share with the student how you can assist them. If possible, provide options that support the student and align with institutional policies and your needs for the course.
  • It is OK to share a personal story and strategies that work for you; however, it is important to remember that different situations and health conditions require different treatment approaches. It is best to utilize professional mental health support for advice or recommendations on treatment and interventions.
  • Ensure you let the person know about the different options and resources to find help (see the resources below).
  • You don't have to deal with everything yourself. If you feel uncomfortable with what the student is sharing, or the student is in extreme distress, find another staff or faculty member to assist you. If the student is able, walk with them to Counselling Services.

Additional information on responding to mental health disclosures can be found on our Supporting Others page. Information on Responding to Disclosures of sexual violence can be found on the Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Office webpage

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 assure them that out 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. Afterwards, email/call Counselling Services and ask them to follow-up with the student through a wellness check.

Additional resources for supporting students in need

Our Supporting Others webpage contains important information on responding to  mental health disclosures that might be helpful.

For urgent support please see our Get Help Now page. We also have information on provincial and international crisis resources. In addition, we have gathered a selection of non-urgent resources for everything academics to food scarcity to mental health. Please see our non-urgent resources page.

For a larger list of resources both on/off campus please visit the Campus Wellness resources database. For simplification, we have organized resources by type. Counselling Services also has some resources for faculty and staff on how to support students in need.

If you are looking for a particular resource and cannot find it below, please email the Community Wellness Team.

Mental health training options

The Community Wellness Team organizes a variety of wellness sessions every term, including sessions on Responding to Disclosures of Sexual Violence, and Responding to Someone in  Distress.

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 review the in-person training opportunities via the Campus Wellness training page.