Guidelines for Talking with a Distressed Student/Person

Lewis University students, faculty and staff may observe or interact with others in the Lewis community or on campus that are distressed, physically, mentally, and/or emotionally.  You may have a gut feeling that something is not right with the person.  Ideas on how to talk to a person of distress include:

  • Listen, accept and respect what the person is saying.
  • Attempt to address the person's needs and seek appropriate resources.
  • Try to focus on an aspect of the problem that is manageable and offer support identifying helpful resources.
  • Empathize with the person’s feelings (as you do not have to agree with the person). Avoid giving advice, judging, evaluating, criticizing or giving “easy” answers such as "Everything will be all right."
  • Trust your insight and reactions and let others know your concerns. Talk to appropriate Lewis faculty/staff (e.g., professor, RA, LUPD) and complete an online Person of Concern Form if more concerning behavior that needs additional follow-up and support.
  • Avoid contributing unnecessarily to the person's guilt or sense of failure.
  • Do not swear secrecy or offer confidentiality to the person.
  • Encourage the person to seek help and link them to support services.
  • Respect the student's value system, even if you don't agree.
  • When called for, let the person know you are worried about their safety.
  • After the interaction with the student, make some notes documenting what was took place.
  • Remember if you feel unsafe that you don’t have to intervene or respond. Get help.

If a student expresses a direct threat to themselves or others, or acts in a bizarre, highly irrational or disruptive way, call 911 or Campus Police at (815) 836-5911 immediately.

For more information on signs of a distressed person on Lewis University campus, report a person of concern and the Assessment and Care Team (ACT):

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