Red Folder

Recognize • Respond • Refer

1. Recognize

Please review the most common signs of distress. Students may also present with indicators not listed.

  • Signs of physical abuse 
  • Signs of self-injury 
  • Interpersonal violence 
  • Unprovoked anger or hostility 
  • Implying or making a direct threat to harm self or others 
  • Stalking or harassing 
  • Unprompted disclosure of thoughts of death or suicide 
  • Verbal abuse (e.g., taunting, badgering, intimidation) 
  • Unresponsive or altered level of consciousness 
  • Repeated absences and/or decline in quality of work or performance 
  • Writings/creative work that include unprompted disturbing content and/or themes of despair, hopelessness, violence, death, or aggression 
  • Disorganized performance and/or repeated requests for extensions 
  • Conduct that interferes with classroom, group work, or activity engage
  • Frequent utilization of faculty/staff office hours for personal support 
  • Marked changes in physical appearance 
  • Excessive fatigue, listlessness 
  • Sleep disturbance 
  • Intoxication, hangover, smelling of alcohol, evidence of drug abuse 
  • Disoriented or “out of it,” out of touch with reality 
  • Garbled, rambling, tangential, disconnected, or slurred speech 
  • Behavior out of context or out of character for the individual 
  • Self-disclosure of personal distress – family problems, financial difficulties, grief, shame 
  • Excessive tearfulness, panic reactions, irritability, or unusual apathy 
  • Feeling hopeless and helpless 
  • Expressions of concern about the student by peers 
  • Concerning interpersonal communication style (e.g. withdrawn or agitated, mutters under breath, slow response time to questions) 
  • Delusions and paranoia 

2. Respond

Use these important tips to determine the most appropriate response for a distressed student.

  • Be direct 
  • Stick to the facts 
  • Don’t make assumptions 
  • Describe the changes you have noticed 
  • Ask them if they are okay 
  • Listen! 


“I have missed you in class lately. Is everything ok?”

“You have seemed different these last few classes. Is there anything you want to talk about? “

  • Be present, patient, and listen to them 
  • Let them know they are not alone and you are there for them 
  • Provide them a space to be heard and don’t make assumptions about them 
  • Be curious- ask them questions 
  • Describe changes you have noticed 


“It sounds like you are overwhelmed! Is there anything I can do to help out?”

“I would like to hear more about how you’ve been feeling.”

“That sounds really challenging.”

  • Determine the need and resources 
  • Reaffirm your support and care 
  • Connect them to resources 
  • Follow up 


“Is it alright if I reach out to you next week? I’d like to follow up and see how you’re doing.”

“Thank you for sharing your experience. I am not an expert in this area, but I know someone who might be able to help. Would it be okay if I put you in contact with them?”

“It sounds like you’ve really been struggling, have you thought about visiting the counseling center? I have heard great things from students.”

3. Refer

Is the student in need of immediate assistance?


The student is at immediate risk of harming self or others, is incoherent or unresponsive, is in extreme distress, or is causing extreme distress to others. I do not feel comfortable with the student being alone. Or, I have significant concerns about this student and cannot determine if they are at imminent risk. 


Call 911, even if on-campus. After the student is connected to emergency resources, submit an ICARE referral.


I’m not concerned for the student’s immediate safety, but believe they are struggling with academic and/or personal issues and could benefit from some additional support. 


See the Where to Report Chart for additional support. Encourage the student to set up an appointment or assist them in doing so. Refer to CWS or Disability Support Services, or submit an ICARE referral and/or early warning alert in Navigate depending on the situation. 


This is not an emergency; however, the student is showing signs of distress and the issue is impacting multiple areas of the student’s life. I am concerned about them and want to get them more help soon. 


Consider the nature of the student’s distress and context-appropriate resources for consultation. Assist the student in connecting with Counseling and Wellness Services or the 24/7 Regional Crisis Line 1-877-266- 1818. See the Where to Report Chart for additional support. Submit an ICARE referral. When in doubt, if you feel the situation is an emergency or can’t wait, call EWU Dispatch at 509- 359-7676 to consult. 


Reflect on your own boundaries, self-care and support needs. Utilize colleagues, supervisors, department heads for consultation and collaboration. Consult with HR for information on professional development, wellness programs, and employee assistance options that are available to support faculty/staff. 

Consider your status related to campus security requirements and if there are any Title IX or crime-related reports you are required to file. 

Circle back with the student after a referral to a support resource to check-in. 

Understand that due to privacy regulations, it may not always be possible for other campus resources to provide you detailed information back.