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How to Help a Distressed Student

If you decide to help, then do it with HEART


  • Stop what you're doing and really listen to what the student is saying.


  • Acknowledge what you have heard and let the student know you understand.
  • Express concern and interest.
  • Avoid criticizing or sounding judgmental.
  • Remember, even if the problem does not seem real to you, it may be very important to the student.


  • Ask the student, "What have you thought about doing?"
  • Discuss the pros and cons of different courses of action.
  • Don't expect to have all the answers.


  • Be honest about your concerns and limitations.
  • The student may need professional help.
  • Do not agree to be secretive about his or her problem.
  • Help the student find appropriate resources.
  • Offer to go with him or her to talk with a professional.


  • Do not ignore comments about suicide, violence, or harm to others.
  • Seek professional assistance.

* adapted from Fairleigh Dickinson University

NOTE:   In cases where a student's behavior poses an imminent threat to you or another, contact KU Public Safety & Police Services immediately at 610-683-4001.