Skip to main content
Skip to main navigation
Skip to search

Helping Others in Distress

You can play a critical role in helping someone in distress. It’s important to recognize the symptoms of distress and respond when you see them. Know the resources available to you and how to access the right people. Here are a few guidelines to help you help others in distress:

  • Observe your situation and assess for safety. If the distressed individual has a weapon or is physically acting out, do not engage. If you or others are in danger, contact campus police at 765-455-9363 or 911 as soon as you are safe to do so.
  • If it is safe to initiate contact, speak directly and evenly. Let the person know who you are and that you want to help.
  • Listen to the person without offering advice. Avoid negatives or commiseration. Focus on listening objectively.
  • Suggest (but don’t force) the distressed individual go to the CAPS office with you. You can ask permission to accompany him/her/they to the CAPS office or another mental health provider.

If you do not feel safe providing assistance, or the student leaves/walks away in crisis, call 911 or the University Police at 765-455-9363 depending on the severity of the situation. Emergency services can be accessed 24 hours a day by calling Howard County Regional Health at 765-453-8555.

If someone is talking about suicide

Suicide is the third leading cause of death among 10 to 24 year olds, the second leading cause of death among 25 to 34 year olds, and the fourth leading cause of death among 35 to 54 year olds. If you are thinking about suicide, or know a friend that may be, this site can provide help and hope.

The Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) office can provide support for students at no cost. Appointments are available M-F from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., with later hours available if necessary. Consultation and referrals are also available for faculty, staff, and parents.

Same-day crisis appointments will be arranged for students experiencing:

  • Suicidal or homicidal thoughts
  • Inability to perform daily tasks
  • An acute stressor that threatens the safety of self or others

For mental health emergencies after CAPS hours, call University Police at 765-455-9363, call 911, or go immediately to your nearest emergency room. For all emergency situations where someone requires immediate medical assistance and/or is in immediate danger to him/herself or others, call 911 or University Police at 765-455-9363.

Counseling and Psychological Services

Local 24-hour crisis numbers

National 24-hour hotlines

For Faculty, Staff, and Administrators

A faculty member is often the first member of the college community to notice a troubled student. It can be challenging to help someone who is not coping well. Be sensitive to the student during the interaction.

Ask yourself:

  • Do you understand what the problem is?
  • Can you meet the person’s expectations in this encounter?
  • Do you feel safe?

Certain cues may indicate that you may need a professional consultation from the CAPS, or, in an emergency, immediate assistance from the Campus Police.

  • Are you okay with the topic at hand? Know your own tolerance limits. It is ok to know your limits and to end a conversation before you get in too deep. Do not ask follow up questions that you are not equipped to handle.
  • What is the emotional temp of the room? Fear can be contagious, monitor your ability to stay calm.
  • How does the student present? Crying generally indicates the person is upset, but not necessarily in crisis.
  • Where are you? It may be helpful to move to a quiet space if you are in a location with high stimulus levels.
  • Breathe. Remain calm, understanding and reassuring.
  • Respect. Be respectful, but do not pretend to understand a student with confused thoughts who is out of touch with reality. Do not agree or disagree with delusions or hallucinations.
  • Reflect. When dealing with a student who is agitated or frustrated with you, be mindful that you are seen as the person with power. Express empathy, and paraphrase what has been said to be clear that you understand. (But remember – you can set boundaries and disallow unacceptable behavior).
  • Remain calm. Keep a safe distance from someone who is angry, hostile or demanding. Be aware of your surroundings. It’s important to keep an exit path open (don’t allow a student to block the door).
  • Encourage calm. Rather than tell a student to “calm down,” model it by speaking softly and confidently.
  • Inform the student of available services on campus and provide information to access services. CAPS is a confidential service and it’s essential to maintain it as a “safe space.” It is generally not advisable to ask if the student has a relationship with services, inquire about what the student shares with the professional, or to offer advice related to the use of services.

*For CAPS, an emergency is: 1) suicidal planning and/or intent 2) plans/intent to harm another person or the campus community 3) death of an immediate family member within the past 7 days 4) seeing or hearing things that others cannot or 5) inability to function (unable to speak/engage, unable to care for hygiene).

Last updated: 12/12/2017