Helping a Student in Distress

Below is our comprehensive guide to helping students in distress. Information includes: where to start when you are concerned that a student or peer is in distress, responding to students who are in distress, and specific ways that you can help in various situations. Our goal is to empower members of the UNH community to act when they are concerned. 

 

Where Do I Start?

Responding to Students in Distress

How Do I Help?

 


Where Do I Start?

If you are concerned about a student, don't let uncertainty stop you from taking action. UNH is committed to supporting students in crisis. This guide has been developed to help you Recognize, Respond, Refer and Report troubling student behavior. 

For additional information, talk to your supervisor or department chair and contact the Dean of Students Office at (603) 862-2053.

Support Resources on Campus:

  • UNH Police: (603) 862-1427 | Emergency: 911
    • Immediate emergency services for threatening or dangerous behavior
    • Active shooter and campus safety trainings 
    • Campus-wide alarm system for crisis notification and response
  • Psychological and Counseling Services: (603) 862-2090
    • After-hours emergencies: (603) 433-5135
    • Brief individual, group, and couple psychotherapies, crisis intervention
    • Consultation and outreach 
  • Student Accessibility Services: (603) 862-2607
    • Registering and accommodating students with all types of disabilities
    • Faculty and staff consultation on issues related to students with disabilities
  • Health & Wellness: (603) 862-9355
    • Medical care and wellness education for UNH students, faculty, and staff
    • Individual wellness and education/counseling appointments with educators/counselors 
    • Allergy services, immunizations, pharmacy, men, women, and transgender health care
  • Student Life: (603) 862-2053
    • Support for students who are food insecure
    • Guidance for students seeking leave of absence 
  • SHARPP (Sexual Harassment and Rape Prevention Program): (603) 862-3494
    • 24/7 hotline, crisis intervention, and safety planning for domestic and sexual violence for people of all genders
    • Free advocacy groups for survivors, friends, and families
    • Community training on issues of consent, sexual assault and harassment 

Responding to Students in Distress

  • Stay safe

  • Trust your instincts

  • De-escalate and Support

  • Set limits on disruptive/destructive actions

  • Listen thoughtfully and carefully

  • Share what you know

  • Consult to coordiante a timely response

  • Follow up


How Do I Help?

"Not sure what, but something's wrong."

  • Disturbing content in paper/emails
  • Decline in academic performance
  • Excessive absenteeism
  • Irrational or bizarre behavior 
  • Sudden change in demeanor (from extroverted to withdrawn, organized to forgetful, etc.)
  • Significant changes in appearance, behavior, or personal hygiene
  • Express concern and care
  • Give an example of a time that the student's behavior has worried you
  • Listen to and believe student's responses
  • Be supportive and encouraging if student agrees to get help

Urgent: 911 or UPD (603) 862-1427

Advice and Consultation: PACS (603) 862-2090

Student Life (603) 862-2053

Student Resources unh.edu/student-life/resources

Depression, self-harm, suicidal risk

  • Decline in academic performance 
  • Written or verbal statements preoccupied with theme of death or that convey intent to harm 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."
  • Express concern and care 
  • Always take suicidal statements, thoughts, or behaviors very seriously
  • If you suspect a student may be suicidal, express concern and refer 
  • Call 911 if there is a threat to student's safety or the safety of others 

Urgent: 911 or UPD (603) 862-1427

Advice and Consultation: PACS (603) 862-2090

Behavioral Intervention Team (BIT) (603) 862-2053

Student Life (603) 862-2053

Student Resources unh.edu/student-life/resources

Misconduct, inappropriate behavior, and classroom disruption

  • Disruptive Conduct: Inappropriate outbursts or persistent interruptions, continued arguing, 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.  

  • Express concern and care
  • Explain the impact of student's behavior on the group or class
  • Outline your expectations and help student explore options and alternatives 

Urgent: 911 or UPD (603) 862-2090

Advice and Consultation: PACS (603) 862-2090

Student Life (603) 862-2053

Student Resources: unh.edu/student-life/resources

Crime, victimization, hazing

  • Fearful, anxious, nervous, or angry 
  • Withdrawn 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. 
  • Express concern and care
  • Remain calm. Showing outrage may cause a student to shut down
  • Listen to and believe student's responses
  • Avoid criticizing or minimizing the situation 
  • 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."

Urgent: 911 or UPD (603) 862-1427

Advice and Consultation: PACS (603) 862-2090

Student Life (603) 862-2053

Student Resources: unh.edu/student-life/resources

Actual or suspected medical issues (chronic illness, eating disorders, etc.)

  • Frequent or extended absences
  • Noticeable weight loss or gain
  • Hair loss; pale or gray skin tone
  • Unusual or secretive eating habits; obsession with the fat/caloric content of food 
  • Express concern and care
  • Listen to and believe student's responses
  • Recommend (or, if necessary, insist upon) medical intervention 

Urgent: 911 or UPD (603) 862-1427

Advice and Consultation:

  • Health & Wellness (603) 862-9355
  • PACS (603) 862-2090
  • Student Life (603) 862-2053

Student Life (603) 862-2053

Student Resources: unh.edu/student-life/resources

Bullying, harassment, sexual harassment, cyberstalking

  • Internet flaming, trolling, name-calling, or harassment
  • Communications that continue after being told to stop
  • Threats to release private information/photos 
  • Verbal abuse, unwanted sexual flirtations
  • Demand for sexual favors by peer or supervisor accompanied by implied or overt threat concerning an individual's academic status or employment
  • Display of sexually suggestive pictures or cartoons in workspace, residence halls, or online 
  • Express concern and care
  • Identify resources for safety planning 
  • Encourage student to keep a log of bullying/harassing behavior; take and save screenshots of online harassment (Twitter, Facebook, etc.); save copies of all communications including texts, voicemails, and pictures

Urgent: 911 or UPD (603) 862-1427

Advice and Consultation:

  • Affirmative Action and Equity Office (AAEO) (603) 862-2930
  • PACS (603) 862-2090

Student Life (603) 862-2053

Affirmative Action and Equity Office (603) 862-2930

Bias incident

  • Act(s) directed against a person or property on the basis of race, color, religion, creed, sex, age, marital status, national origin, mental or physical disability, political belief or affiliation, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, or genetic information
  • Defaced posters, signs, or pictures; graffiti or vandalism; pictures, cartoons, or targeted symbols associated with hate
  • Threatening call(s), email(s), or social media post(s)
  • Defacement or destruction of personal property
  • There may be no clear perpetrator involved 
  • Express concern and care
  • Listen to and believe student's responses
  • Avoid criticizing, blaming, sounding judgmental, or minimizing the situation
  • Encourage student to save any photos, communications, or other evidence
  • Do not remove any evidence (e.g., erase writing on a whiteboard, etc.)

Urgent: 911

Advice and Consultation:

  • UPD (603) 862-1427
  • Student Life (603) 862-2053
  • Affirmative Action and Equity Office (603) 862-2930

Student Life (603) 862-2053

Affirmative Action and Equity Office (603) 862-2930

Violence/harassment/interpersonal/sexual assault

  • Fearful or anxious related to their partner
  • Apologizes/excuses partner/other's behavior
  • Mentions partner/other's possessiveness, jealousy, or violent behavior, but may laugh it off
  • Visible injuries or bruises
  • Mishaps or injuries with illogical/no explanation
  • Crying to leaving when sexual violence, domestic violence, stalking, or child abuse is the topic 
  • Express concern and care
  • Listen to and believe student's responses
  • Remain calm. Showing outrage may shut student down
  • Avoid criticizing, blaming, sounding judgmental, or minimizing the situation
  • Identify resources for safety planning
  • Recommend (or, if necessary, insist upon) medical intervention 
  • Say things like, "You've been through something very frightening. I'm so sorry." 

Urgent: 911

SHARPP Rape Crisis Hotline (603) 862-7233

Advice and Consultation:

  • PACS (603) 862-2090
  • Health & Wellness (603) 862-9355

Student Life (603) 862-2053

Affirmative Action and Equity Office (603) 862-2930

Alcohol or other drug abuse

  • 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.)
  • Express concern and care
  • Give an example of a time that the student's behavior has worried you
  • Be supportive and encouraging if the student agrees to get help
  • Offer to help the student make an appointment for alcohol screening and intervention (unh.edu/health/ohep/alcohol)

Urgent: 911

Advice and Consultation:

  • PACS (603) 862-2090
  • Health & Wellness (603) 862-9355

Student Life (603) 862-2053

Family or personal tragedy, loss, or crisis

These issues may include: illness or death of a family member, job loss, housing issues, natural disaster, breakup, legal difficulties, etc.

  • Frequent or extended absences
  • Decline in academic performance
  • Mentions relationship, financial, or other challenges
  • Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
  • Exhaustion/fatigue
  • Excessive worry, sleeping/eating problems 
  • Express concern and care
  • Avoid criticizing, blaming, sounding judgmental, or minimizing the situation
  • Listen to and believe student's responses
  • Be supportive and encouraging if the student agrees to get help

PACS (603) 862-2090

Student Life (603) 862-2053

Financial Aid (603) 862-3600

Office of International Students & Scholars (603) 862-1288

Student Life (603) 862-2053

Student Resources unh.edu/student-life/resources

 Printable pdf version available here.