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Cougar Health Services

Guide to Helping Students in Distress

Pullman Campus

Faculty and staff are often able to recognize when a student is struggling, but it can be hard to know what to say or do. You can reference this guide when you’re concerned about a student. Each WSU location has a guide with specific campus and community resources.

Tips for responding with compassion

Listen sensitively and carefully. Vulnerable students need you to listen and help. Ask directly how they are doing or if they have thoughts of harming themselves or others.
Trust your gut. If you are concerned about a student, talk to your department chair, supervisor, or the Office of the Dean of Students.
Connect with campus resources. We have other professionals and campus resources dedicated to helping you and students. You can start with the AWARE Network or any of the other resources listed in this guide. Your firsthand knowledge and personal connection to this student is valuable in supporting them.
Take care. Helping a distressed student can take a toll on you. Please think of your own wellbeing and seek support if needed.
Stay safe. Safety is always our top priority. Call 911 if a student poses an immediate threat to self or others.
Share what you know. State and federal laws and University policies mandate reporting in some situations. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) allows faculty and staff to report student health and safety concerns to relevant campus offices trained to handle situations with sensitivity and care. Taking appropriate action does not violate a student’s privacy. In some instances, employees have an obligation to report behavior. Visit oeo.wsu.edu for more information on reporting requirements.

AWARE Network

The AWARE Network allows you to share concerns about a student’s well-being, behavior, or academic performance with colleagues who can help. After submitting a report, the Office of the Dean of Students will contact you to gather additional information, talk about the situation, and identify next steps.

The goal is to determine the best way to connect the student with resources that support their success without causing additional stress. Visit aware.wsu.edu for more information.

Campus resources

Access Center
Provides accommodations and services to WSU students with documented disability/medical needs.

Cougar Health Services
Provides confidential medical care and counseling services to WSU students and 24-hour crisis support services.

Employee Assistance Program 1-877-313-4455
Provides WSU employees counseling, education, and consultation services.

Office for Equal Opportunity 509-335-8288
Intake office for complaints of discrimination, discriminatory
harassment, sexual harassment, and sexual misconduct.

Office of the Dean of Students 509-335-5757
Supports student success by providing financial assistance, academic support, guidance, and referrals.

Office of the University Ombudsman 509-335-1195
Serves as an impartial and neutral resource to assist all members of the university community.

WSU Police 509-335-8548

Community resources

Alternatives to Violence of the Palouse 509-332-4357
A confidential community resource that supports family and sexual violence victims, and their children.

Pullman 24-Hour Crisis Line 509-334-1133

Pullman Regional Hospital 509-336-7359

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255

Crisis Text Line
Text HOME to 741741

Common issues

RECOGNIZE

RESPOND

REFER

REPORT

“Not sure what, but something’s wrong.”

RECOGNIZE

  • Disturbing content in paper/emails
  • Decline in academic performance
  • Excessive absenteeism
  • Irrational or bizarre behavior
  • Sudden change in demeanor (e.g. an extroverted student withdraw, an organized student forgetful, etc.)
RESPOND

  • Express concern and care
  • Give an example of a time that the student’s behavior has worries you
  • Listen to and believe student’s responses
  • Be supportive and encouraging if student agrees to get help
REFER

  • Urgent: 911
  • Advice and consultation:
  • Counseling and Psychological Services
    509-335-4511
  • WSU Police
    509-335-8548
REPORT

  • Office of the Dean of Students
    509-335-5757
  • AWARE Network aware.wsu.edu
  • Academic Dean

Family or personal tragedy, loss, or crisis

(Illness or death of family member, job loss, breakup, legal difficulties, etc.)

RECOGNIZE

  • Frequent or extended abscences
  • Decline in academic performance
  • Mentions relationship, financial or other challenges
  • Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
  • Exhaustion/fatigue, excessive worry, sleeping/eating problems
RESPOND

  • Express concern and care
  • Avoid criticizing, sounding judgmental, minimizing or blaming
  • Listen to and believe student’s responses
  • Be supportive and encouraging if student agrees to get help
REFER

  • Urgent: 911
  • Advice and consultation:
  • Counseling and Psychological Services
    509-335-4511
  • Dean of Students
    509-335-5757
  • Student Legal Services
    509-335-9539
  • International Programs
    509-335-2541
REPORT

  • Office of the Dean of Students
    509-335-5757
  • AWARE Network aware.wsu.edu
  • Academic Dean

Medical and mental health concerns

(Sudden or long-term illness, depression, or anxiety)

RECOGNIZE

  • Direct statements about medical and/or mental health concerns
    Frequent or extended absences
  • Excessive fatigue, falling asleep in class
  • Significant decline in appearance, behavior or personal hygiene
  • Noticeable weight loss or gain
  • Irritability, agitation, or anxiety
  • Emotionless facial expression, slow speech, difficulty concentrating,
    expressing feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
  • Crying or tearfulness
  • Unusually withdrawn or animated behavior
  • Disorganized speech, rapid or slurred speech, confusion
  • Decline in academic performance, leaving class abruptly
  • Extreme disorganization or erratic academic performance
RESPOND

  • Express concern and care
  • Avoid criticizing, sounding judgmental, minimizing or blaming
  • Listen to and believe student’s responses
REFER

  • Urgent: 911
  • Advice and consultation:
  • Counseling and Psychological Services
    509-335-4511
  • Cougar Health Services
    509-335-3575
REPORT

  • Office of the Dean of Students
    509-335-5757
  • AWARE Network aware.wsu.edu
  • Academic Dean

RECOGNIZE

RESPOND

REFER

REPORT

Self-harm, suicide, safety risk

RECOGNIZE

  • Written or verbal statements preoccupied with themes of
    death, suicide, or harming self or others
  • Fresh cuts, scratches or other wounds
  • Withdrawal from activities and friends
  • Statements of hopelessness such as, “I hate this life” or
    “Everyone is better off without me”
  • Statements to the effect that the student is “going away for a long time”
  • Physical or verbal aggression that is directed at self, others,
    animals, or property
  • May accompany other types of emotional distress (see medical
    and mental health concerns above)
RESPOND

  • Express concern and care
  • Avoid criticizing, sounding judgmental, minimizing or blaming
  • Always take suicidal statements, thoughts or behaviors very
    seriously
  • If you suspect a student may be thinking about suicide, seek
    immediate consultation
  • If possible, ask directly about their thoughts and plans
  • Call 911 if there is a direct threat to student’s safety or the safety
    of others (consult with the AWARE Network if you are unsure)
REFER

  • Urgent: 911
  • Advice and consultation: Counseling and Psychological Services
    509-335-4511
  • WSU Police:
    509-335-8548
REPORT

  • Office of the Dean of Students
    509-335-5757
  • AWARE Network aware.wsu.edu

Alcohol or other drug abuse

RECOGNIZE

  • Intoxicated/high in class or at meetings/events
  • Excessive sleepiness or hyper energy
  • Decline in academic performance
  • References to alcohol or drug use in conversations, papers, projects, etc.
  • Deterioration in physical appearance (bloodshot eyes, dilated
    pupils, trembling hands, etc.)
  • Unusual smells on breath, body or clothes
RESPOND

  • Express concern and care
  • Give an example of a time that the student’s behavior has worried you
  • Listen to and believe the student’s responses
  • Be supportive and encouraging if the student agrees to get help
REFER

  • Urgent: 911
  • Advice and consultation:
  • Counseling and Psychological Services
    509-335-4511
  • Cougar Health Services
    509-335-3575
REPORT

  • Office of the Dean of Students
    509-335-5757
  • AWARE Network aware.wsu.edu

Misconduct, inappropriate behavior, and classroom disruption

RECOGNIZE

  • Disruptive Conduct: Inappropriate outbursts or persistent interruptions, continued arguing beyond the scope of academic debate, use of threats
  • Disorderly conduct*: Throwing items, refusing to leave, preventing others from leaving, showing or stating the presence of a weapon
     
    *Disorderly conduct and threatening behaviors require immediate action
RESPOND

  • Express concern and care
  • Explain the impact of student’s behavior on the group or class
  • Clarify or outline your expectations
  • Contact police if student does not respond to your intervention and continues serious disorderly conduct and threatening behaviors
REFER

  • Urgent: 911
  • Advice and consultation:
  • Counseling and Psychological Services
    509-335-4511
  • WSU Police
    509-335-8548
REPORT

  • Office of the Dean of Students
    509-335-5757
  • AWARE Network aware.wsu.edu
  • Academic Dean

RECOGNIZE

RESPOND

REFER

REPORT

Crime victimization, hazing

RECOGNIZE

  • Appears fearful, anxious, nervous or angry
  • Withdrawal from activities and friends
  • Visible injuries or bruises
  • Cuts, brands, or scars with a distinct pattern (e.g. Greek alphabet letter)
  • Unusual absence of or damage to personal items such as laptop, cellphone, etc.
RESPOND

  • Express concern and care
  • Listen to and believe the student’s responses
  • Do not interpret student’s emotions as evidence of crime
  • Avoid criticizing, sounding judgmental, minimizing or blaming. Say things like, “I’m sorry that happened, but I’m glad you’re safe now.” and “Thank you for trusting me enough to tell me.”
REFER

  • Urgent: 911
  • Advice and consultation:
  • Counseling and Psychological Services
    509-335-4511
  • WSU Police
    509-335-8548
  • Dean of Students
    509-335-5757
REPORT

  • Office of the Dean of Students
    509-335-5757
  • AWARE Network aware.wsu.edu
  • Academic Dean

Violence, harassment, interpersonal/sexual assault

RECOGNIZE

  • Appears fearful or unusually anxious about pleasing others
  • Apologizes or makes excuses for partner/other’s behavior
  • Mentions partner/other’s possessiveness, jealousy or violent behavior, but may laugh it of
  • Visible injuries or bruises
  • Frequent mishaps or injuries with illogical or no explanations
  • Crying or leaving when sexual violence, domestic violence, stalking or child abuse is brought up
RESPOND

  • Express concern and care
  • Listen to and believe student’s responses
  • Do not interpret student’s emotions as evidence of assault or violence
  • Avoid criticizing, sounding judgmental, minimizing or blaming
  • Recommend (or, if necessary, insist upon) medical intervention
  • Provide information on resources and reporting options
  • Say things like, “You’ve been through something very frightening. I’m so sorry.”
REFER

  • Urgent: 911
  • Advice and consultation:
  • Alternatives to Violence of the Palouse
    509-332-4357
  • Counseling and Psychological Services
    509-335-4511
  • Cougar Health Services
    509-335-3575
REPORT

  • Office for Equal Opportunity
    509-335-8288
  • Office of the Dean of Students
    509-335-5757
  • AWARE Network aware.wsu.edu