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Empowering Faculty to Support Student Mental Well-Being

Faculty and instructors are in a unique position to demonstrate compassion and provide assistance for students in distress. Use this guide to help identify resources when working with a student you suspect is in distress.

Identify students in distress

Some of the signs include:

  • Sudden or drastic changes in appearance
  • Frequent or sudden mood changes
  • Changes in speech patterns or frequency of communication
  • Sudden decline in academic performance, including multiple missed assignments and absences
  • Disclosure of personal distress in course chats, assignments and private emails
  • Disturbing contents or distressing themes in assignments (e.g., violence, death, hopelessness, rage, isolation, suicide ideation)

Warning signs of suicide include:

  • Talking about wanting to end it all
  • Expressing feelings of guilt, hopelessness, or desperation
  • Withdrawal from everyday life or activities
  • Intense anger
  • Looking for ways to access deadly means (e.g., firearms, dangerous chemicals)
  • Posting good-bye messages online

Engage with students in distress – it is ok to be awkward! And don’t assume someone else has already intervened.

  • Trust your intuition
  • Explain why you are concerned (be specific, “You have been missing lots of classes, look sad all the time, falling asleep…”)
  • Show compassion (‘I am worried about you”)
  • Listen (you don’t have to solve problems)
  • Know your own limits (if it is requiring time, effort, concern on your part that feels beyond what you can do, you probably need to get others involved)
  • Consult as needed (other faculty, department head, CAPS)
  • Consider filing a Student of Concern report—mental health professionals in a non-clinical role can assess for risk, and refer students appropriately
  • Follow up (it’s ok if the student does not want to accept help right then, unless there is an immediate risk).
  • Refer (consider applying the same principle you use for physical problems – when you do take care of it yourself and when do you go see a doctor?)

Know the resources

  • For emergencies: Call 911 or USU Police (435.797.1939)
  • Crisis hotlines: SafeUT (a free app for USU students), Crisis Text Line 741-741, National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1.800.273.8255
  • USU Counseling and Psychological Services (435.797.1012)
    • Offers free services to students via Zoom, including crisis and urgent appointments during Monday-Friday, 8am-5pm. Ongoing therapy is available to undergraduate students who are enrolled in 9 credits or more, and graduate students in 6 credits or more.
    • Call 435.797.1012 to schedule an appointment (the office is locked and not available for in-person scheduling)
    • Available for consultations and outreach presentations
  • USU Student Health Center (435.797.1660)
    • Offers primary care and mental health services
  • Sorenson Center for Clinical Excellence
    • Offers various behavioral health care for fee.
  • ACT Guide
    • Self-care resource available free for students
  • USU Behavioral Intervention Team and Care Team
    • Mental health professionals and helping professionals serving in a non-clinical role will assess a student’s risk, and intervenes on that risk level, and then connects students to the appropriate resource. File a Student of Concern form here.

Create a Supportive Environment to enhance mental well-being and reduce undue stress

  • Work with the Disability Resource Center (DRC) as needed
    • If a student indicates they are unable to complete assignments or attend class due to health concerns, including mental health concerns, direct the student to the DRC to obtain an accommodation. It will help you, help other faculty, and most of all, help the student.
  • Use inclusive language
  • Consider impact of deadlines (8pm vs 12am and impact on sleep schedule)
  • Demonstrate cultural sensitivity
  • Encourage and model self-care
  • If you are comfortable, let students know you are aware and supportive of students using mental health resources on campus.
    • Maintain boundaries, and refer students to appropriate mental health resources on campus.
  • Recognize that the pandemic has challenged everyone, and acknowledge that times are difficult.
  • Periodically check in with students to see how they are doing
  • Create social connections for students when and where appropriate
  • Provide information about resources and coping strategies to promote mental wellness
  • Avoid stress promoting language