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Faculty/Staff: Suicide Prevention Information

Similar to students on other college campuses, most ETSU students adjust to the challenges of college life or graduate school either on their own or with the help of social support. However, some students may need professional help to cope. Faculty and staff members can play a positive and crucial role in identifying students who may be in distress, and referring them to professional help.

As a faculty or staff member, you may be the first to come across a student in distress and the first person who students turn to for help. The information here is to provide faculty and staff with information on assisting a student in distress.


For assistance, please call:

ETSU Counseling Center at 423-439-4841

Counseling Center Policies: For Dealing with Distressed, Disturbed, Disruptive or Dangerous Students


professor helping student 


Got Help?

Although college life can be an exciting experience, it can be a difficult adjustment and overwhelming for some students. Often, it is you, the faculty or staff member who provides the link between students and the Counseling Center.


Concerned about a Student? Know the Warning Signs

  • Students exhibiting emotional distress: signs of anxiety, depression, unmanageable anger
  • Adjustment issues
  • Excessive worries
  • Notably elevated or decreased mood
  • Suspected alcohol and/or drug abuse
  • Notable irritability, disruptive behaviors and peer conflicts
  • Fatigue and social withdrawal
  • Threatening and/or aggressive behavior to self and/or others
  • Signs of inability to care for self
  • Euphoria or non-stop talking
  • Overreaction to criticism or mistakes
  • Bizarre or strange behavior which is obviously inappropriate, e.g. talking to "invisible people"
  • Indications of self-destructive thoughts (verbalized, written)
  • Any significant change in a student's behavior, appearance or demeanor
  • Sudden change in academic performance, such as deteriorating class work, decrease in class attendance, inappropriate or disruptive behavior, papers with themes of distress.
  • Dependency, the student hangs around you or makes excessive appointments to see you
  • Physical changes, especially sudden weight loss or gain, deteriorating personal grooming, extreme fatigue lasting beyond a day or two
  • Withdrawal and isolation from othersInability to make decisions despite your attempts to clarify and encourage
  • Bizarre or strange behavior which is obviously inappropriate, e.g. talking to "invisible people"


Helping a Student in Distress

Individuals in distress may often believe that they cannot be helped and may not ask for help. However, most people in distress would like to stop hurting. If you think a student is considering suicide or is in distress, don't be afraid to communicate. Your willingness of be understanding, offer reassurance, support can save a life.

Team Up: To provide assistance to a student, consult with a colleague, department head, Dean of Students, or campus counseling professional (link to resources).


Guides for Interactions

  • Talk to the student in private
  • Listen carefully
  • Show concern and interest
  • Avoid criticizing or being judgmental
  • Involve yourself only as much as you feel comfortable; be careful about becoming overly involved
  • If the student resists help, you may want to consult the Counseling Center at 423-439-4841 to discuss your concerns.


Be Willing to Listen

  • Be non-judgmental- don't debate whether suicide is right or wrong.
  • Be direct and open about suicide, your concerns, and what you observe.
  • Be available and show interest, understanding, and support.
  • Remain calm and take the lead in a soothing manner ("I am quite interested to hear what's bothering you. Can you tell me about it?").
  • If he/she is showing signs of emotional distress, don't be afraid to ask whether he/she is considering suicide, or if he/she has a particular plan or method in mind.
  • Offer hope
  • Do not attempt to argue someone out of suicide. Rather, let the person know you care, that he/she is not alone, that suicidal feelings are temporary and that depression can be treated.



  • Overwhelming the student with information or complicated solutions.
  • Arguing with student's irrational thoughts ("You have nothing really to worry about, your grades are good").
  • Devaluing the information presented ("It's not as bad as you think" or "Don't worry, you have everything going for you").
  • Assuming the student will get over the depression or anxiety without treatment.


Offer Hope


Making a Referral to the Counseling Center

  1. Faculty or staff person can refer a student by having the student call the Counseling Center (423-439-4841). It is best if the student makes the call in your presence.
  2. Faculty or staff person can walk the student over to the Counseling Center.
  3. Faculty or staff person can request assistance from campus Police (423-439-4480) if concerned that a student may be at risk of hurting self or others.


Additional Resources

Numerous resources are available that include:


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