Helping Students in Distress

Boston University’s Charles River campus at night

What You Can Do for a Student in Distress

Taking the step to assist a student can save a life...perhaps save many lives. It is a positive and life-affirming step to take. An individual who is distressed often wants help but doesn't know how to ask. You can play an essential role by expressing your concern in a caring, nonjudgmental way.

  • Find a private, comfortable place to talk. Give the student your undivided attention. It is possible that just a few minutes of effective listening on your part may be enough to help the student feel comfortable about what to do next. Ask if the student has ever talked about this problem with anyone else, including a counselor. Try to get an accurate understanding of the issues, and, if appropriate, encourage the student to talk about the situation with a professional.
  • In your own words, express your concern using statements like, "I'm concerned that...".
  • Ask open-ended questions. The student may choose not to answer, but may feel relieved to know you are trying to understand.
  • Don't feel compelled to find a solution. Often, listening is enough.
  • Suggest that the student can get more help if needed. You can give this brochure to the student and point out the resources available at BU.
  • Don't hesitate to ask for support from the Dean of Students Office or Student Health Services, Behavioral Medicine Department.