I'm concerned about a student. What should I do?
Is the student a potential harm to self or others?
YES: Call 911 or bring the student to the nearest hospital emergency department. If the student is a threat to themselves or others but is unable or unwilling to go to the emergency department, call 911 or UNC Public Safety at 919-962-8100 to request assistance.
NO: Have a conversation with the student using the strategies below. If you or the student needs more support, reach out to Counseling and Psychological Services, contact the Dean of Students office directly or submit a Care Referral Form
In most cases that don't involve imminent harm to self or others, a conversation with the student may be the best strategy. Many people in distress believe their struggle is invisible; having a caring person notice and offer support can be a step towards healing. Some tips:
Find an appropriate time and place to speak with the distressed student
Ask them to speak to you privately, at a time and place where you can both focus on the conversation without distraction.
Describe what you observe
Be objective by stating what you observe that is concerning to you. Avoid making assumptions about why the student is distressed. Indicate that you are concerned about their well-being and that you want to help. You could say something like, "It looks like you're struggling. I noticed that...[say what you have seen]. I'm worried about you and want to help if I can."
Ask about what seems to be wrong.
Just listen, carefully, sensitively, without judgment. Give them your undivided attention.
Accept the person “as is,” without agreeing or disagreeing with his/her behavior or point of view.
Sincerely communicate your understanding of the issue as they describe it, in both content and feeling.
Help the person understand that the situation can improve and that things will not always seem so bad. Avoid trying to fix, criticize, moralize, correct, or make decisions for the person. Give reassurance and information. People can and do recover from mental illness.
Encourage the person to continue to talk about their issues, and remind them that it is normal to talk with someone they can trust when in need of help. Talking is a natural way to relieve stressful emotions. Ask about and encourage self-care techniques the student has used in the past.
The student may find it helpful to talk with other supportive people. Options include:
- A trusted faculty member, administrator or staff member
- A family member
- A medical provider
- A spiritual leader
- A mental health provider
Review together the Mental Health Resource Hub located on this website and determine at least one resource that fits best with the student's needs.
Be willing to visit mental health resources with the student
If the student appears distressed enough and is open to your help, you may want to seize the moment by offering to visit CAPS or another mental health resource with them.
Be available and follow-up
Remain open to further discussions, let them know that you are available if they need you. Check back with the person, because you care about how they are feeling.
Remember your role and your own limits
Your role is to provide non-judgmental support and to suggest other options when your support is not enough. Remember your own limits, do not become more involved than your time and skill permits. If the issues are beyond your ability to help, you may want to call and talk with someone at the Dean of Students or CAPS about how you can best help the student. You can also submit the Care Referral Form.
If you believe that this is an emergency situation, including an imminent threat of harm to self or others, please call 9-1-1. The submission of a Care Referral Form will not address an emergency situation.
Staff and Faculty Referral Resources
This Care Referral Form linked below is for use only to request support for students. UNC-Chapel Hill employees are encouraged to go to their immediate supervisor or Human Resources representative with concerns about colleagues. Further information -- including options for online reporting -- is available at Employee and Management Relations.
Student Care Referral
You are encouraged to submit a Care Referral Form to report any non-emergency concerns that you have for a student. Your referral will be reviewed by a Dean of Students staff member within two university business days. Please include as much relevant information as possible.
If you would like to speak with a Dean of Student staff member during normal business hours to discuss your concern, please call 919-966-4042.
Typical Responses to a Student Care Referral Form
Staff from the Dean of Student's office will coordinate a response that may include but is not limited to the following:
Outreach to Student
In most cases, the Dean of Students staff attempt to contact the student directly to hear their perspective and offer support and resources based on their experiences. The best outcome is a direct partnership with the student who needs support.
Consultation with Referring Party (if known)
The Dean of Students staff may reconnect with the referring party, if known, to consult on the concerns. This may include asking for additional information, providing advice, connecting the referring party to additional resources, and more.
Communication with Campus and/or Community Partners
The Dean of Students may connect with various partners to gather information to determine the best approach to support the student. This may include but is not limited to Carolina Housing, Accessibility Resources and Services, and Academic Advising. If the student is a potential harm to self or others, DOS may consult with law enforcement and/or other partners to evaluate appropriate strategies to ensure the safety and wellness of the student and the community.
Please keep in mind that information submitted via the Care Referral form is subject to mandatory reporting requirements. Staff members in the Dean of Students office are considered Campus Security Authorities and responsible employees.
For concerns involving sexual harassment, sexual assault or violence, relationship violence, stalking, discrimination, and harassment, it is best for you to report the issue directly to the Equal Opportunity and Compliance Office (EOC) via the EOC incident report form online. Any Care Referral forms including the above information will be forwarded to the EOC.