Assisting Student in Distress
See something. Say something. Do something.
A student’s behavior, especially if it changes over time, may be an indicator of distress or “a cry for help.” You might be the first person to recognize signs of distress in a student, especially if you have frequent or prolonged contact with them. Trust your instincts if a student leaves you feeling worried, alarmed, or threatened. Be the 1.
Follow the Response Protocol to best determine who to contact when faced with a distressed or disruptive student.
Is the student a danger to self or others, or does the student need immediate assistance for any reason?
- I’m not concerned for the student’s immediate safety, but they are having personal or academic issues and could use more support/resources.
- Fill out Early Alert Form and verbally refer to Counseling and Career Development (CCD) office and/or other campus community resources as needed.
- The student shows signs of distress but I am unsure how serious it is.
- My interaction has left me feeling uneasy and/or concerned.
- Talk with student.
- Call CCD to consult.
- Escort to Counseling Center.
- Call Behavioral Intervention Team (BIT) chair to consult.
- Call Campus Police and fill out BIT Report Form
- The student’s conduct is clearly and imminently reckless, disorderly, dangerous, or threatening, including self harm or a medical emergency.
- Call Campus Police or 911.
Crisis and Risk Indicators
- Sudden decline in quality of work or grades.
- Excessive absences.
- Bizarre content in writings or presentations.
- Repeated classroom disruptions.
Safety Risk Indicators:
- Excessive anger or hostility.
- Implied or direct threats to harm self or others.
- Stalking or harassing.
- Your gut feeling that there is a safety risk.
- Self disclosure of distress (relationship and/or family issues, grief, suicidal thoughts, etc.).
- Excessive tearfulness, panic, irritability, or apathy.
- Verbal abuse.
- Concern from peers.
- Marked changes such as bruises, cutting.
- Excessive fatigue.
- Intoxication, disorientation, or smelling of alcohol.
- Delusional speech.
- Rapid speech or hyperactivity
Guidelines for Intervention
Be the 1 to contact Campus Police, BIT Chair, or CCD staff for consultation on the seriousness of the situation, and strategies for how to best support yourself and the student.
Be the 1 to act sooner rather than later. Don’t hesitate to call 911 in an emergency.
Don't be afraid to:
- Let the student know you are concerned about them and would like to help.
- Allow the student to discuss their thoughts and feelings, which often helps relieve pressure.
- Refer the student to Counseling and Career Development (CCD) office (if at Main Campus).
- Offer to help them call to schedule a counseling appointment, or if immediate assistance is needed during business hours (if at DeVos and Tassell M-TEC).
- Or offer to escort them to CCD (if at Main Campus).
- If student is experiencing too much distress to drive to Main Campus, call Campus Police or 911 (if at DeVos and Tassell M-TEC).
- Don’t be afraid to ask about suicide ideation directly: “Are you thinking about suicide, killing, or hurting yourself?”
- Stay safe and maintain the boundaries of your professional role.
Don't be afraid to:
- Ensure the safety of yourself and those present.
- Set limits by explaining how the behavior is inappropriate; if the behavior persists, notify the student that disciplinary action may be taken.
- Ask the student to leave. Call Campus Police at (616) 234-4911 or 911.
- Immediately file a BIT report online through the Student Life and Conduct webpage to report the incident and communicate with BIT Chair.
Early Intervention Resources
Grand Rapids Police Department - 911
GRCC Campus Police--Emergency - (616) 234-4911 or push Code 2 button on any campus phone
Kent County Police Emergency - 911
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (24/7) - (800) 273-TALK (8255)
Ottawa County/Holland Crisis Line - (616) 396-HELP (4357)
Silent Observer - (616) 774-2345
Grand Rapids Police Department - (616) 456-3403
Veterans Crisis Lifeline (24/7) - (800) 273-8255
YWCA (Domestic Abuse/Sexual Violence) - (616) 459-4681
Mental and Behavioral Health
Arbor Circle (Mental Health Services) - (616) 456-6517
Drug and Alcohol Abuse Resources
GRCC Behavior Intervention Team Report (Student Life and Conduct Office) - (616) 234-3337
GRCC Counseling and Career Development Office - (616) 234-4130 or email counseling @grcc.edu
Men’s Resource Center (Mental Health Services) - (616) 456-1178
Network 180 (community mental health resources) - (616) 336-3909
Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services - (800) 678-5500
Cherry Health–Heart of the City Clinic (Medical Clinic) - (616) 965-8200
GRCC Campus Police Non-emergency Number - (616) 234-4010
GRCC Title IX Ethics Hotline - (616) 234-3169 or email grcc.edu/studentconduct
GRCC Behavior Intervention Team Report (report forms)
United Way (Community Resources) - 211
Women’s Resource Center (Employment, Mentoring and Social Services) - (616) 458-5443
This document was developed [in part] under grant no. 1U79SM062523-01 from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The views, policies, and opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of SAMHSA or HHS.
Confidentiality and FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act): FERPA permits communication about a student of concern in connection with a health and safety emergency. Observations of a student’s conduct or statements made by a student are generally not considered to be education records protected by FERPA. Any relevant information about a student may be shared with police, emergency services or other first responders in the case of a health and safety emergency, for the purpose of providing aid to the student. Please remember to only send directory information (defined on FERPA page) via email. Any information sent via email becomes an educational record which is subject to FERPA protections.