Refer: How to Refer a Student in Distress

Think about what you have seen and heard from the student. It’s OK to feel unsure about how to respond and you don’t need to have all the answers. Choosing any response over remaining silent is always the best option.

Listen, validate non-judgmentally and encourage healthy coping

Remember that you are not diagnosing the student but rather checking in with them to refer them to University services or resources:

  • Reinforce help seeking behaviours
  • Cheer-­‐lead – validate the students’ strength and ability to cope/survive.
  • Reinforce progress towards goal – reinforce the small steps.
  • Negotiate – offer the options you are willing to offer and have clear limits.
  • Suggest alternatives to the behaviour if possible.
  • Normalize the notion of seeking help, reaching for resources and talking to professionals.

“What do you think will help you get back on a healthy path?”

“There are some services on and off campus that have people who could help you work through this situation.”

“I’m concerned about you and I want to support you. I’d like to share a few resources with you that might help.”

Offer hope

  • Assure the student that the situation can get better.
  • Give the student hope and encouragement. This can help build alliance, calm high emotions, and encourage support seeking behaviours

Statement examples include:

“It sounds like things are tough right now. But it doesn’t mean things will always be this way.”

“I know you can figure this out, I want to help you be successful both academically and personally.”

Provide advice and suggestions

Quick Reference Guide

Things to keep in mind when referring a student



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