Intervention (Approaching the Student)

Whenever there are indicators that a student is in distress, the situation is worth exploring.

Imminent Threat of Harm/Life Endangering Situation

In a situation where there is an imminent threat of harm to self or to others (suicidal statements or suicide attempt, loss of consciousness, violent behavior or threats), it is imperative that immediate action be taken. It is of utmost importance to ensure the safety of the student or others. Call either VPD 615-32(2-2745) or dial 615-42(1-1911) immediately.

Urgent: No Imminent Threat of Harm

Substance abuse, eating disorders, or verbal abuse require intervention because of the potential for future harm. You may need to be persistent in conveying your concern. Concerned individuals may call the Psychological and Counseling Center at 615-32(2-2571) for advice and consultation.

Distress: Non-urgent or Minimally Disruptive Behavior
  • Elicit feedback and support regarding your concerns from the appropriate school Dean. ( See College & School Liaisons )
  • If you decide to express your concern to the student:
    • Choose a place where you may talk quietly without interruption, at a time convenient for both of you.
    • Be honest and focus on the specific signs that alerted you to a possible problem.
    • Remain calm, compassionate, and willing to listen.
    • Convey your willingness to help.
    • Be aware that the student could respond in a variety of ways. Don’t interpret negative, indifferent, or hostile responses as a wasted effort. A decision to seek help often takes time.
    • Sometimes fear gets in the way of the student’s willingness to accept assistance. Acknowledging possible reservations may help overcome this barrier.
    • Provide the student with the phone number of the Psychological Counseling Center, Student Health, Religious Life, or the Dean of Students.
    • Reiterate that the services are free and confidential.
    • If appropriate, ask for an agreement to make an appointment by a certain date. It may be helpful to ask the student later if he or she has followed through on a referral you made.
    • Keep communication open by telling the student you are always willing to listen.
    • Occasionally, it may be helpful to assist a student with making a contact.
    • Be mindful that students may view referral as rejection.