If you are concerned about your student, talking directly to them is often the best way to find out what they are experiencing, what kind of support they may have already sought out, and what may be causing or contributing to the issue. In many instances, students just need to be able to talk about their concerns and feel like they are being heard.
The following steps offer some guidance to help you in approaching your student about your concerns.
- Start by letting your student know that you are concerned and offer concrete examples. “You used to check in once a week, and I haven’t heard from you in a month. I’m worried. Is everything ok?” Or, “You have seemed really down lately – like when you told me you slept all weekend. What’s going on?”
- Listen non-judgmentally. This might be hard if they offer information that you don’t approve of, but try not to be critical of your student. If you ask questions, try to do so in a way that is less about digging for information and more about showing you care or that you are trying to understand their situation.
- Often times it is hard for anyone who is not experiencing a mental health concern to understand how or why someone might feel anxious or depressed. However, it is important to remember that whatever your student is feeling — even if you don’t understand it — is what they are feeling. Try to avoid telling your student to “cheer up” or “get over it,” as this can make the situation worse. Instead, try to understand and then refer your student to on-campus resources.
- Try to offer emotional support. Remember that emotional support does not mean stepping in to handle the situation. You can tell your student that you care and that you are worried. You can also offer to help or support them in seeking help for themselves, but we strongly encourage you to let your student take the lead unless you think it is an emergency situation.
- It is OK to ask your student if they are having thoughts of suicide. Asking your student if they are feeling suicidal will not place the thought of suicide in their head. If your student says that they are having thoughts of suicide, you can contact campus security to do an immediate wellness check. See the Emergency Resources page for more information.