Guidelines for Talking with a Student in Crisis

If a student wants to talk:

  • Accept and respect what is said
  • Help determine what needs to be done or changed
  • Try to focus on an aspect of the problem that is manageable
  • Avoid giving advice, judging, evaluating, and/or criticizing
  • Avoid giving answers such as “Everything will be all right.”
  • Help the student recall constructive methods used in the past to cope; get the person to agree to do something constructive to change
  • Offer yourself as a caring person until professional assistance has been obtained
  • Trust your insight and reactions
  • Let others know of your concerns
  • Attempt to address the student’s needs and seek appropriate resources
  • Avoid contributing unnecessarily to the student’s guilt or sense of failure
  • Do not swear secrecy or offer confidentiality to the student
  • Encourage the student to seek help
  • Respect the student’s value system, even if you don’t agree
  • When called for, let the student know you are worried about his/her safety if you are concerned the student may be feeling hopeless and thinking about suicide, ask if he/she is contemplating suicide. It is important to remember that talking about suicide is a cry for help and is not to be ignored. Seek help from one of the resources listed
  • After the student leaves your office, make some notes documenting your interactions in case you need to explain this to a professional. The more details you provide, the better the provision of care for the student
  • Consult with others regarding your experience