Recognizing and Responding

Members of the RIT community work together toward maintaining an environment of support, respect, and care to contribute to student success. Whether you are staff, faculty, a student, or family member of a student at RIT, we all play a role.

If a student confides in you, or if you are truly concerned about a student, reaching out early may be the key to prevention, connection and making a difference in a student’s life.

Common indicators of distress include:

Academic Indicators

  • Uncharacteristic changes in a student’s performance
  • Increased or repeated absences
  • Serious references to suicide or violence in verbal statements or writing
  • Disruptive classroom behavior
  • Frequent, repeated requests for accommodations or special consideration

Behavioral Indicators

  • Trouble regulating emotions such as sadness or anger
  • Having difficulty working in groups or together with peers
  • Isolation from peers (staying in room, avoiding interaction with others
  • Crossing the boundaries of others, violations of respect of others
  • Disruptions in sleep, difficulty sleeping
  • Changes in appetite, problems with food
  • Messages or posts to social media reaching out for help
  • Noticeable changes in appearance or hygiene

Suicide Threats, Gestures, and Attempts

Individuals who are contemplating suicide often give some warning of their intentions to a friend or family member. All suicide threats, gestures, and attempts must be taken seriously.

Contact RIT Public Safety at 585-475-3333 or Counseling and Psychological Services at 585-475-2261 immediately if you witness, hear, or see someone:

  • Threatening to hurt or kill him/herself, or talking of wanting to hurt or kill him/herself
  • Looking for ways to kill him/herself by seeking access to firearms, available pills, or other means
  • Talking or writing about death, dying or suicide, when these actions are out of the ordinary for the person

How to Respond

If you notice signs of severe distress in a student, the best step to take is contacting Public Safety at 585-475-3333. Public Safety will assess the situation, respond, and may contact the most appropriate resource for you.

One option for making a referral is to encourage the student to visit our office. You may consider providing the student with information that helps them to connect with us and sharing any positive experiences that you may have from the past. 

If there is a more urgent concern, you may choose to assist the student in connecting with our office. You could offer to assist by making the first call to schedule a counseling appointment together or you could escort the student to the Counseling and Psychological Services office, located on the second floor of the August Center.

If you are unsure of how or when to refer a student, we encourage you to contact our office for a brief consultation.

Counseling and Psychological Services also provides brief phone consultation to faculty, staff, family, or friends who may be concerned about a student’s well-being, as well as evaluation and treatment for students who are in distress.

Our staff are available to help identify potential resources, discuss available services, suggest ways to approach the student, and help you to identify possible next steps, including how to encourage the student to consult with one of our mental health professionals. Please note, however, that specific information about current clients is confidential and cannot be shared without the student’s consent.

We recommend checking in with the student at a later time to find out whether they were connected with the appropriate resource. Ask about their experience and offer to advocate for them if needed.

Counseling and Psychological Services has compiled a list of tips for supporting a student in distress directly.

  • Choose a private place and a safe time for you and the student to talk
    “Is now an OK time for us to talk or can we set aside another time?”
  • Listen with care and attention, reflect what you hear
    “I heard you say that you have been depressed lately. Tell me more.”
  • Focus on the facts and concerns that you see
    “I am worried that you haven’t been responding in class as actively as you usually do.”
  • Ask what steps may have been taken so far by the student to address the problem
    “What has been helping you to deal with this problem so far?” or, “what are some of the things in your life that help you cope with this?”
  • Express willingness to help
    “I’m here for you” or “How can I help you get what you need?”
  • Help the person identify next steps for sources of support
    “What could we do to get you some more assistance with this?”
    “Seems like you have been struggling with sleep; what about checking with the Student Health Center on that?”
  • If possible, offer to connect and follow up with the student, plan a time to check in about how things went
    “What if we walked together to the Student Health Center or Counseling & Psychological Services so you can make an appointment? I know where it is and I can check with you next week if you made the appointment.”
  • Know that it is OK to just talk, hear the student out, and just offer a space for the student to be heard.
    Sometimes that is all that’s needed.

Concerned about a Friend

Counseling and Psychological Services offers consultation to students who may have concerns about the well-being of another student at RIT. While information about current Counseling and Psychological Services clients is confidential, we are available to meet with you regarding your concerns and to help develop a plan of action.

If you are concerned that your friend may be in a mental health crisis, please do not hesitate to contact Counseling and Psychological Services at 585-475-2261 or Public Safety at 585-475-3333.

Practicing Good Self Care

If you are concerned about a friend or peer’s mental health, know that it is normal to feel confused, frustrated, or scared about dealing with the situation. Since these feelings can become overwhelming, it may be helpful to seek support from campus resources to address your own feelings and needs. If you feel that your boundaries are being crossed, or that you are putting your own wellbeing at risk, it may be helpful to consult with a Counseling and Psychological Services staff member.

Resources for Faculty and Staff

Faculty and staff are often the first to identify and respond to students who are struggling.

Expected and developmentally appropriate struggles include difficulty with major life transitions, losses, poor decision making, or problems with motivation. Appropriate responses to these situations will vary depending on the culture, life experiences, and unique needs of each student. While for one student, responding with tears about a poor grade may be normal, for another student, it may be a sign of crisis.

Students may share very personal information and confide in you, both through your contact with them personally in the office or classroom, and through their academic work. Although the majority of students will not utilize Counseling and Psychological Services or other campus services for support, you can serve to help identify students in need, and provide referrals and direct connection to campus resources.

If you feel a student is at immediate risk of harm, please contact Public Safety by calling 585-475-3333 or texting 585-205-8333.

Report an Incident

If you or someone else is in need of assistance or has a concern that should be addressed, you can report the incident. This may include concerns about a student, COVID-19 protocol violations, a crime or policy violation, a Title IX concern, or a biased-related incident.

Report an Incident

Red Folder

The Red Folder is a resource available to faculty and staff that provides information on common indicators of student distress. This resource offers in-the-moment process tips on how to best help a student in distress by providing a decision tree and detailed list of campus resources.

View the Red Folder