Quick Reference Guide


What to look for

Observing and recognizing when a student is in distress may be relatively straightforward, when the signs are obvious. But when the signs are more subtle, it’s more difficult, and you may feel reluctant to intervene. In such cases, you can look for a number of indicators in a student’s thoughts, feelings, actions and academics.


What to say

Regardless of our individual roles on campus, any one of us may have the opportunity to help prevent a student from finding themselves in crisis. Asa TA, you may be in a unique position to help a student in distress. You have the power to ask a simple question: “Are you okay?”


What to do

There may be any number of circumstances in which it would be appropriate for you to refer a student for help. In such cases, help the student to explore sources of possible support. Remember that there are many different services, resources and professionals ready to provide assistance.



Student is expressing signs of distress WITHOUT POSING RISK to self or to others.

If concerned:
Offer referral to Health & Wellness Centre, College/Faculty Registrar (uoft.me/people), and/or Good2Talk Post-Secondary 24/7 Helpline (1.866.925.5454).

If appropriate, follow up with student. Keep in mind that the student should not feel pressured to share confidential information.


Student is in need of help, but there is NO IMMINENT RISK to self or others. Signs may include:

  • Passive talk of harm to self or suicide (without a plan in place)
  • Expressions of hopelessness
  • Significant disturbances in thinking
  • Aggressive, impulsive

Alert Crisis Response Team – 416.946.7111

Crisis Response Team operates only during regular business

Offer referral to:

Health & Wellness Centre, Community Safety Office, College/Faculty Registrar. Check with Department Coordinator whether you have an embedded counsellor who may be able to see the student sooner. After hours, contact Campus Police.

Students accepts referral

  • Notify your Chair/Graduate Program Director/or immediate supervisor.
  • If the student needs assistance, and you feel comfortable to do so, check with your immediate supervisor as to whether you or someone within your department would be able to accompany the student to the service.

Student rejects referral

  • If student is on campus, connect with Crisis Response Team, or Campus Police and notify Chair/Graduate Program Director/or your immediate supervisor.
  • If student is off campus, dial 911 and notify Campus Police and your supervisor.


Student is ACTIVELY PLANNING SUICIDE or POSES IMMEDIATE THREAT OF HARM to self or to others. Signs may include:

  • Talk of a plan and means to harm self or others
  • Disruptive behaviour that seems out of control
  • Situation feels threatening or dangerous

Activate Crisis Response Team – 416.946.7111

Crisis Response Team operates only during regular business

Call Campus Police and/or Emergency Services (dial 911)

Given that mental health and well-being of students is a shared responsibility of all campus community members, it is important that you become aware of how to identify warning signs, how to assist students who are in distress, and how to effectively refer them to various University services and resources. There are people and services on campus to assist you in dealing with distressed students.

Back to Refer: How to Refer a Student in Distress