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Communicating with Students in Distress

If you're concerned about a student, please don't delay in offering support, or consulting with someone who can help. Learn to recognize and respond to signs of distress that can indicate a student may be experiencing a mental health challenge or crisis, or contemplating harm to self or others.

Strategies for talking to a student


Put yourself in the student’s position. 

Communicate Carefully

Avoid rushing to fix, advise, placate, blame, agree or disagree. Reflect, paraphrase, clarify, summarize. 

Know Abilities and Limitations

Please do not ignore or avoid the responsibility of interacting with an at-risk student. Do not overextend your responsibilities or try to work outside your competency area. Seek staff/faculty assistance if needed.

Refer them to the Carruth Center

  • Let the student know you care and want to help. Normalize mental health care, e.g., if you broke your leg, you would see a medical doctor. 
  • Describe seeking help as a sign of strength and courage, using good judgment and an appropriate use of resources. 
  • Educate the student about the process of counseling (I think is questionable — what if they don’t know what the process is?). 
  • Encourage the student to call Carruth ( 304-293-4431) or access online scheduling and schedule an appointment while they are in your office. 
  • Tell them about the WVU CARE Team and how they support students while they are juggling a tough situation, school, work or family responsibilities. 
  • Remind them that the Carruth Center is an excellent resource. 
  • Provide information about Carruth’s services, including an urgent/crisis clinic, groups/workshops, short-term counseling, alcohol and other drug counseling and care management.

How to help a suicidal student

If you’re concerned someone is suicidal, ask!  “Are you thinking about  ending your life?”
  • Remain calm. 
  • Be confident and caring. 
  • Don’t express surprise or shock. 
  • Don’t argue the morality of suicide, make negative comments about suicide or discuss suicide’s impact on family and friends. 
  • Call the Carruth Center at 304-293-4431 or walk the student to the Center.

More Resources

  • Emergency Help - If the student is in a life-threatening situation and needs immediate attention, call 911 or UPD at 304-293-2677 
  • Campus Mental Health website - Explore available resources and treatment options for WVU students, faculty and staff on the  Campus Mental Health website.
  • Crisis Text Line - Text WVU to 741741 
  • After hours/weekend psychological emergencies - Call the Carruth Center at 304-293-4431 and press 1 to speak with a counselor 
If you or someone you know is feeling suicidal, the hotlines below can also provide assistance: 
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) 
  • Military Veteran s Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK, press 1

Get Help for a Student