Helping students: CARE
Recognizing crisis warning signs
A person at risk, or in a crisis, is no longer coping effectively. As his or her emotions intensify, coping becomes less effective until the person becomes disoriented, nonfunctional, or attempts harm to self or others. A student in a serious mental health crisis may be:
- Extremely anxious, resulting in panic reactions
- Making suicidal statements or attempting to harm himself
- Highly disruptive (hostile, aggressive, violent)
- Unable to communicate (garbled or slurred speech, disjointed thoughts)
- Appearing to lose touch with reality (seeing or hearing things that aren’t there, expressing beliefs or actions at odds with reality)
If you believe there may be imminent danger of harm to a student or someone else, call Police and Parking Services at 308-865-8911, or 911. If you aren’t sure, call Student Health and Counseling at 308-865-8248 or the Office of the Dean, Division of Student Affairs at 308-865-8528 between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Click on the link, referral form to email the CARE Team directly and privately, if the situation is not an immediate crisis.
Distress can be exhibited without a student being in a serious crisis.
A student may be in distress if:
- Quality of their work is deteriorating; missing assignments, attendance or appointments
- Requests accommodations repeatedly (late papers, extensions, postponed exams)
- Writes on themes of hopelessness, social isolations, rage, or despair, or making threats
- He is disruptive or monopolizing classroom time; her patterns of interaction change
- Is demonstrating anxiety, panic; irritability or aggressive behavior
- Shows apathy, lack of energy, a change in sleeping or eating habits, or dramatic weight gain or loss; marked changes in hygiene, work habits, or social behavior
- Makes statements about suicide or having suicidal thoughts
- Voices bizarre ideas, seemingly at odds with the reality of the situation
- Using alcohol or other drugs excessively
- Others express concerns
Helping a student in distress
If you are concerned that a student may be in distress or crisis, we can help him or her identify resources and get help. Privacy laws do not prevent you from reaching out to express your concern about a student in distress.
Start a conversation
A person who is distressed often wants help, but doesn’t know how to ask. Express your concern in a caring, nonjudgmental way. It is possible that just a few minutes of effective listening on your part may be enough to help the student feel comfortable about what to do next
- Find a private (not secluded), comfortable place to talk. Give the student your undivided attention.
- Ask if the student has ever talked about this problem with anyone else.
- Express your concern using statements like, “I’m concerned that….”
- Ask open-ended questions. The student may not answer, but may feel relieved to know you are trying to understand.
- You don’t need to find the solution. Just listening can be helpful.
- Suggest that the student get more help. Point out the resources at UNK to the student, listed in the Referral section.
- Report the conversation to the CARE Team.
- Alert your supervisor of the situation.
How to make a referral
- For assistance in emergency situations, call UNK Police and Parking Services at 308-627-8911, or dial 911.
- Suggest that the student make an appointment at Student Health and Counseling. The number is 308-865-8248. If necessary, you can call while the student is with you. Write down the appointment time, provider’s name, and location.
- If you do not believe that it is safe to wait for an appointment, walk the student to Student Health and Counseling in the Memorial Student Affairs Building. After hours call Student Health and Counseling at 308-865-8248 to reach the counselor on call.
- If you suspect a student has a disability, refer him or her to the Academic Success Office at 308-865-8214.