• Deterioration in quality of work
• Missed assignments
• A drop in grades
• Repeated absences from class
• Excessive dependency
• Expressions of hopelessness, worthlessness, or despair
• Expressions of concern by others
• Excessive fatigue
• Inappropriate emotional display
• Very unusual behaviours or ideas
• Disorganized or erratic behaviours
• Appearing sick or ill
• Any work that denotes a sense of finality, losing control, despair, suicide or death that is atypical for that student (especially if it is progressively getting more concerning)
• Self-injurious and destructive behaviours
• Unprovoked anger or hostility
• A gut feeling that something is wrong with the student
• Deterioration in appearance
1. Talk to the student promptly and in private.
2. State your observations and the reason for your concern gently, and honestly while avoiding assumptions.
3. Remind the student that there are resources available and people who want to help.
4. Know that the resource is not you alone. Maintain clear boundaries and refer to professional supports.
If in doubt about the appropriate referral, phone or email Counselling Services for a consultation.
If Counselling Services deems the student’s behaviour as medium to high risk, relevant information may be shared, as appropriate, to mitigate this risk. In most cases, this occurs with signed permission from the student. Information about the student or confirmation that they are attending counselling is not released to faculty, staff, parents, or others unless signed permission is provided by the student.
6. Support the student in the referral.
*The gentle hand off* If you are comfortable, you may accompany the student to Counselling Services, look up resources with them, or assist them in making an appointment. Counselling, in these circumstances, is a suggestion and is never mandated.
Student responses to faculty contact can range from relief, to panic, to defensiveness and anger. If anything in the conversation leads the faculty member to be alarmed or have increased concern about the student, then the student can be referred to Counselling Services, can be offered resources for supports, or the academic discipline process can be initiated.
Most of the time, students have the choice as to whether or not they will seek help. However, there are a few situations where the student is not making positive choices for themselves, and others must step in. This might be a student who is behaving irrationally, in a threatening manner, or cannot be consoled. Do not promise confidentiality in these situations.
Dr. S has noticed that one of her students, Joseph, appears to be having difficulty. At the beginning of the semester he attended class regularly and came prepared for lectures and exams. About halfway through the semester, she noticed he missed several classes, and appeared distracted and exhausted when he did attend. Dr. S made the decision to approach Joseph as he was leaving class, and asked him to stay behind.
Dr. S: Joseph, I have noticed that you haven’t been attending class as often as you used to.
Joseph: Yeah… Sorry, I’ve had a lot going on.
Dr. S: I just wanted to let you know that I had noticed, and I was wondering if everything is okay?
Joseph: Oh, yeah, I’m okay.
Dr. S: Well, it seems like something has changed for you since September, and you look quite tired in class. You also haven’t been as well-prepared for class as you were previously. If you have something going on in your life right now which is difficult, it may help to get some support.
Joseph: *says nothing*
Dr. S: Is there anything I could do which would be helpful for you?
Joseph: No, that’s fine, thanks.
Dr. S: Are you aware there are resources on and off campus to help students? They are free.
Joseph: I don’t think I need that.
Dr. S: Alright, I can respect that. If anything changes and you would like to do so in the future, do you know where they’re located?
Dr. S: You’re also welcome to talk to me if there is anything I could do to help. Well, thanks for hearing me out. Take care, I’ll see you next class.
The student in this example was not particularly open to support. However, the instructor did several supportive things. She first described behaviors that she observed without judgment. She let the student know that she has concerns about him, she respected his wish for privacy, and she informed him about where he could get support if he chooses to access it. The instructor has now made the student aware that help is available, and he may choose to access it at some point in the future. Alternatively, if the issue is something that the student can resolve on his own, the instructor’s comments may serve as the motivation he needed to take whatever action is necessary.
Red Deer College Counselling Services
100 College Boulevard
PO Box 5005
Red Deer, AB T4N 5H5
Counselling Services Hours
Monday-Friday: 8:30 am - 4:30 pm
*extended hours on Wednesday until 6 pm
Closed Saturday, Sunday,
and all Statutory Holidays
Red Deer College recognizes that our campus is situated on Treaty 7 land, the traditional territory of the Blackfoot, Tsuu T’ina and Stoney Nakoda peoples, and that the central Alberta region we serve falls under Treaty 6, traditional Métis, Cree and Saulteaux territory. We honour the First Peoples who have lived here since time immemorial, and we give thanks for the land where RDC sits. This is where we will strive to honour and transform our relationships with one another.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0).