Home/I'm concerned about a student. What should I do?

I'm concerned about a student. What should I do?

Is the student a potential harm to self or others?

YES: Call 911 or bring the student to the nearest hospital emergency department. If the student is a threat to themselves or others but is unable or unwilling to go to the emergency department, call 911 or UNC Public Safety at 919-962-8100 to request assistance.

NO: Have a conversation with the student, reach out to Counseling and Psychological Services, contact the Dean of Students office directly or submit a Care Referral Form

In most cases that don't involve imminent harm to self or others, a conversation with the student may be the best strategy. Many people in distress believe their struggle is invisible; having a caring person notice and offer support can be a step towards healing. Some tips:

Find an appropriate time and place to speak with the distressed student

Ask them to speak to you privately, at a time and place where you can both focus on the conversation without distraction.

Describe what you observe

Be objective by stating what you observe that is concerning to you. Avoid making assumptions about why the student is distressed. You could say something like, "I noticed you seem pretty upset lately." 

Indicate that you are concerned about their well-being and that you want to help. 


Ask about what seems to be wrong.


Just listen, carefully, sensitively, without judgment. Give them your undivided attention.


Accept the person “as is,” without agreeing or disagreeing with his/her behavior or point of view.


Sincerely communicate your understanding of the issue as they describe it, in both content and feeling.

Offer Hope

Help the person understand that the situation can improve and that things will not always seem so bad. Avoid trying to fix, criticize, moralize, correct, or make decisions for the person. Give reassurance and information - people can and do recover from mental illness.


Encourage the person to continue to talk about their issues, and remind them that it is normal to talk with someone they can trust when in need of help. Talking is a natural way to relieve stressful emotions. Ask about and encourage self-care techniques the student has used in the past. 

Offer Options

The student may find it helpful to talk with other supportive people. Options include:

  • A trusted faculty member, administrator or staff member
  • A family member
  • A medical provider
  • A spiritual leader
  • A mental health provider

Go through the Mental Health Resource Hub located on this website with the student and decide together a resource that fits best with their needs.

Be willing to visit mental health resources with the student

If the student appears distressed enough and is open to your help, you may want to seize the moment by offering to visit CAPS or another mental health resource with them.

Be available and follow-up

Remain open to further discussions, let them know that you are available if they need you. Check back with the person, because you care about how they are feeling.  

Remember your role and your own limits

Your role is to provide support and to suggest other options when support is not enough. Remember your own limits, do not become more involved than your time and skill permits. If the issues are beyond your ability to help, you may want to call and talk with someone at the Dean of Students or CAPS about how you can best help the student. You can also submit the Care Referral Form.

Care Referral

The UNC-CH Student Care Team provides coordinated assistant and support to students exhibiting concerning behaviors.

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