Responding to Students in Distress

If you are working with a student who is experiencing significant distress, appears to be having difficulties managing stress, and/or experiencing difficulties managing mental health symptoms, your response will depend on the level of urgency in the situation and your relational engagement with the student.  

Red Folder

The Red Folder is our campus guide for recognizing and responding to students in distress and connecting them with appropriate referrals.  Find out the importance of referring people to the Care Team.  

Urgent Needs and Crisis Situations

For any situation where you determine that the student should talk to someone right away,  call our 24/7 UMN Phone Counseling and Crisis Line by calling 218-281-TALK (8255). Stay on the line with them together until you are dismissed by the crisis line professional, during which time you remain nearby.  If a student exhibits behaviors that indicate IMMEDIATE DANGER to SELF or SOMEONE ELSE, call 911.  

Additional Crisis Resources

Care Team Referral

In addition to any of the above resources, students of concern should be referred to the Care Team.  Faculty, staff, and students can fill out the Care Team's online referral form and the multi-departmental team will create an action plan to connect the student with appropriate resources.

Referring Students for Counseling Services

Faculty and staff play an important role in encouraging and connecting students with Counseling Services.  As you're working with students who disclose or display signs of distress, feel free to ask them if they are open to accessing Counseling Services for support.

If they say YES: 

  1. Ask if they would like assistance with getting set up for services.  
  2. Bring them to the website and show the FOUR WAYS TO GET STARTED with Counseling Services.  
  3. Ask if they would like you to take action for them. 
  4. Send an email to the student AND to to connect Counseling Services with the student.  Counseling Services will reply to the student only with resources and links for getting scheduled.  

If they say NO:  

  1. Remember that students have the right to decide if they want to engage in Counseling Services.  Respect their decision.  They will seek help in the time that is right for them.  You are planting seeds of encouragement. 
  2. Counseling Services staff cannot contact a student unless there is an immediate risk of harm to self or others, in which case, crisis intervention strategies may be implemented.


See also Responding to Sexual Misconduct, Sexual Assault, Sexual Harassment, Relationship Violence, and Stalking.

Mental Health Resources for Faculty and Staff

Employee Assistance Program

The Employee Assistance Program (EAP) provides confidential professional consultation and referral services to address any personal or work concern that may be affecting your wellbeing. You can receive up to eight sessions per issue at no cost.  

EAP is available to all benefits-eligible employees on all system campuses. Your spouse and dependent children are also eligible for EAP services.

See additional local EAP information

BIPOC Collaborative

The BIPOC Mental Health Collaborative meets virtually once a month for a wellness activity and small group discussions.  The Collective is open to all BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) students, staff, and faculty at the University of Minnesota.  Join this space to be seen, be heard, and cultivate mental wellbeing practices. 


Additional Resources for Faculty and Staff