As educators, we are in an ideal position to recognize the signs of distress early and to guide students to use campus resources.

At times, the stress of school, the demands of academics, finances and socialization can become overwhelming for students. Providing initial support to a student who expresses that they are struggling can often be essential in guarding their well-being. Here are a few tips for getting the conversation going.

How to Start the Conversation

  • Find a private, comfortable place to talk. Give the student your undivided attention. It is possible that just a few minutes of empathic listening on your part may be enough to help the student feel comfortable about what to do next.
  • 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.
  • If appropriate, suggest that the student can get more help if needed. You can point out the resources available at BU. (See below for “How to Make a Referral.”)
  • Know your own limits. If you are worried about a student’s safety, because of a concerning email you received or a statement that they made, reach out for help. You can call Behavioral Medicine at 617-353-3569 to consult with a clinician, or if more imminent danger is evident, call the BUPD at 617-353-2121 on the Charles River Campus, 617-638-4144 at BU Medical Campus, or 911 off campus.

How to Make a Referral

  • Suggest that the student make an appointment at Student Health Services
    • Behavioral Medicine: 617-353-3569
    • SARP: 617-353-SARP (7277)
  • Let the student know that all calls and visits are strictly confidential. The only exception is in situations of life-and-death emergency, when the most important consideration is ensuring the person’s safety.
  • If necessary, you can help the student make an appointment. Call while the student is with you. Write down the appointment details, including time, provider’s name, and location.

Interested in additional training options to best support our students?


Kognito_Grey_NoBGBoston University has recently secured the use of an online training program aimed at increasing the “safety net” for students by educating faculty and staff in identifying signs of distress; approaching students they are worried about; and referring students to additional support services, if necessary. The course, At-Risk for Faculty & Staff, teaches effective listening skills, which have been shown to have a more positive impact on students than longer office hours.

A survey found 98% of users of the At-Risk for Faculty & Staff strategies indicated in a survey that they would recommend the course to their colleagues.

We invite you to take the 45-minute online course, which you can pause at any time. Here’s how:

  1. Log in to Kognito Campus
  2. Create a new account
  3. Use enrollment key: bu617
  4. Follow the on-screen instructions
  5. Choose your course and click ”LAUNCH”

Terriers Connect

The Terriers Connect is a training program  that teaches members of the Boston University community to identify signs of distress, develop effective skills for communicating with and supporting students, and provide accurate information about referrals to mental health professionals.

Get more details and find out how you can get trained.