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Counseling Center

Division of Student Affairs

Just for Faculty & Staff


Consultation & Referral Options When Dealing With a Distressed Student

  1. Consult with other ETSU staff, for example  your department head.
  2. Consult with Counseling Center staff by phoneor in person.
  3. Walk the Student of Concern to the Counseling Center.
  4. File a CARE Report

As ETSU faculty and staff members, you may have frequent contact with students. At times, you may encounter students whose behaviors cause you concern or may interfere with your ability to do your work or to educate students.

Tips for Talking to a Distressed Student

  • Remain calm.
  • Provide private, quiet space.  Don’t be rushed.
  • Ask the student to sit down with you.
  • Speak directly and honestly.
  • Explain your concern using specific behavioral examples such as:

I have noticed that you have been crying and I am concerned about you.”

  • Listen and seek to understand…ask questions (don’t assume) such as:

 “What do you need?” or “How can I help?”

  •  Normalize, for example,

“You are not alone.”

  • Frame help seeking as a sign of strength, for example:

“It took courage for you to come to me.”

  • Don’t criticize, blame, judge or give advice.
  • Ask about the student’s support system.


After the Crisis

Working with an emotionally distressed student can be personally stressful.  Secondary trauma refers to the process that helpers undergo as they come face-to-face with the reality of pain experienced by those around them.

The response to traumatic stress varies.  Helpers may feel a range of emotions including:  shock, denial, worry, anger, self-doubt, and sadness.  It is normal for people to question themselves after responding to a student in distress.  After responding to a crisis, be sure to engage in good self-care.  Set healthy boundaries and seek professional consultation if this experience begins to interfere with your daily life. 


Suicide Prevention

Helping a Suicidal Student (Powerpoint)

Assisting the Emotionally Distressed Student:  A Guide for Faculty and Staff

(Note:  This an excellent publication from University of California-Riverside to help you learn about helping distressed students, please disregard UCR contact information and protocol.)

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