Helping a Student in Distress

t-hall in summer

Strategies for Helping Someone in Distress 

Helping others is an important part of being in a community. In your time at UNH, someone may confide in you that they’re struggling, or you might believe someone is in distress. There are many ways to go about helping someone, and it is important that you do so in a way that feels comfortable and natural to you. Check out the tips below for some general advice on helping someone who is struggling. 

Stay Safe. Your safety is a priority. If helping someone puts you in danger or makes you feel anxious, notify a professional who can get involved instead. 

Speak Privately. Avoid confronting someone in a group of people. If you want to talk to someone about how they are doing, try to pull them aside or speak to them privately at a later time. 

Listen Non-judgmentally. Focus on taking in the information someone is sharing and affirming what they tell you. It likely isn’t your role to investigate or question the information. 

Be Grateful. Sharing a struggle with someone is a brave thing to do. If someone confides in you, thank them for trusting you. 

Focus on the Behavior. If you notice something concerning about someone, be specific about what you saw when you speak to them. Avoid making generalizations about them as a person. 

Consult Transparently. Keep urgent resources on your phone and consult when appropriate. If possible, let the student know you’re consulting and that you’re doing so because you care about them. 

Refer. You are not alone at UNH. Become familiar with campus resources and encourage students to connect with them. 

Follow Up. Keep things normal the next time you see the person. It’s good to ask how they’re doing and remind them that you’re here for them.

Signs of Distress

If you are asking yourself the question, “Should I call for help?” we encourage you to do so! Staff at UNH are here to help and want you to take advantage of the resources here. If you notice any of the following about a student, we encourage you to connect with a staff resource as soon as possible: 

  • You observe visible scars or cuts on a student’s skin 
  • A student talks about self-destructive behaviors (e.g. cutting, alcohol/drug abuse) 
  • A student talks about struggling to function (e.g. not getting out of bed, not going to appointments) 
  • A student talks about suicide or not wanting to live 
  • A student talks about financial distress (e.g. homelessness, no money to eat/buy supplies) 
  • A student is unable to manage emotions (e.g. outbursts, inconsolable crying) 
  • A student isolates themselves (e.g. not talking to family or friends) 

If you observe any of the following, contact UNH PD ((603) 862-1212 / 911) immediately:  

  • Aggressive or threatening behavior, including any physical altercation 
  • Possession of a weapon 
  • A student is disoriented, confused or unconscious 
  • A student has a serious injury