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Student Care Network

Helping Students in Distress: Distance Learning Guide

Tips for responding with compassion

Listen sensitively and carefully. Vulnerable students need you to listen and help. Ask directly how they are doing or if they have thoughts of harming themselves or others.
Trust your gut. If you are concerned about a student, talk to your department chair, supervisor, or the Office of the Dean of Students.
Connect with campus resources. We have other professionals and campus resources dedicated to helping you and students. You can start with the Student Care Network or any of the other resources listed in this guide. Your firsthand knowledge and personal connection to this student is valuable in supporting them.
Take care. Helping a distressed student can take a toll on you. Please think of your own wellbeing and seek support if needed.
Stay safe. Safety is always our top priority. Call 911 if a student poses an immediate threat to self or others.
Share what you know. State and federal laws and University policies mandate reporting in some situations. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) allows faculty and staff to report student health and safety concerns to relevant campus offices trained to handle situations with sensitivity and care. Taking appropriate action does not violate a student’s privacy. In some instances, employees have an obligation to report behavior. Visit crci.wsu.edu for more information on reporting requirements.

Common Issues Found in a Distance Learning Setting

  • “Not Sure What, but Something's Wrong.”

    Recognize

    • Disturbing content in paper/emails
    • Decline in academic performance
    • Excessive lack of check-ins and missed assignments
    • Irrational or bizarre behavior
    • Sudden change in demeanor (e.g. a student who usually participates in online forums or Zoom sessions no longer replies; a student who is usually on top of assignments has been extremely forgetful, etc.)
    • Constant anxiety over homework assignments, online forum posts, etc.

    Respond

    • Express concern and care
    • Give an example of a time that the student’s behavior has worried you
    • Listen to and believe student’s responses
    • Be supportive and encouraging if student agrees to get help

    Resources

    The specific resources for your campus can be found here:

  • Family or Personal Tragedy Loss or Crisis

    (Illness or death of family member, job loss, breakup, legal difficulties, etc.)

    Recognize

    • Frequent or extended lack of check-ins or missed assignments
    • Decline in academic performance
    • Mentions relationship, financial or other challenges within homework assignments and online forums, via Zoom, etc.
    • Difficulty making decisions or disorganized thoughts within online forum responses, homework assignments, etc.
    • Mentions of exhaustion/fatigue, excessive worry, sleeping/eating problems

    Respond

    • Express concern and care
    • Avoid criticizing, sounding judgmental, minimizing or blaming
    • Listen to and believe student’s responses
    • Be supportive and encouraging if student agrees to get help

    Resources

    The specific resources for your campus can be found here:

  • Medical and Mental Health Concerns

    (Sudden or long-term illness, depression, or anxiety)

    Recognize

    • Direct statements about medical and/or mental health concerns
    • Frequent or extended lack of check-ins or missed assignments
    • Excessive fatigue, falling asleep on Zoom
    • Significant decline in appearance, behavior, or personal hygiene
    • Displays irritability, agitation, or anxiety
    • Emotionless facial expression and slow speech demonstrated through Zoom
    • Expressing feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
    • Crying or tearfulness
    • Unusually withdrawn or animated behavior
    • Disorganized speech, rapid or slurred speech, confusion
    • Coming across as being out of touch with reality
    • Online forum post contents are bizarre, fantastical, paranoid, disruptive, confused, or show disorientation

    Respond

    • Express concern and care
    • Avoid criticizing, sounding judgmental, minimizing or blaming
    • Listen to and believe student’s responses

    Resources

    The specific resources for your campus can be found here:

  • Self-Harm, Suicide, Safety Risk

    Recognize

    • Written or verbal statements preoccupied with themes of death, suicide, or harming self or others
    • Fresh cuts, scratches, or other wounds
    • Has expressed a lack of interest in social activities within homework assignments and online forums, via Zoom, etc.
    • Statements of hopelessness such as, “I hate this life” or “Everyone is better off without me”
    • Statements to the effect that the student is “going away for a long time”
    • Written or verbal statements demonstrating aggression
    • Signs of irritability, short temperedness, and obsessiveness with projects, online forum discussions, homework assignments, etc.
    • Discontinuation of email responses, phone calls, homework assignments, or online forum posts
    • Content of work turned in becoming negative, dark, or odd in tone

    Respond

    • Express concern and care
    • Avoid criticizing, sounding judgmental, minimizing, or blaming
    • Always take suicidal statements, thoughts, or behaviors very seriously
    • If you suspect a student may be thinking about suicide, seek immediate consultation
    • If possible, during a 1:1 with the student, ask directly about their thoughts and plans
    • Call 911 if there is a direct threat to student’s safety or the safety of others (consult with the Student Care Network if you are unsure)

    Resources

    The specific resources for your campus can be found here:

  • Alcohol or Other Drug Abuse

    Recognize

    • Intoxicated/high in classes via Zoom or representing WSU at meetings/events
    • Excessive sleepiness during class meetings
    • Decline in academic performance
    • References to alcohol or drug use (not in an educational context) via conversations, papers, projects, etc.
    • Deterioration in physical appearance (bloodshot eyes, dilated pupils, trembling hands, etc.)

    Respond

    • Express concern and care
    • Give an example of a time that the student’s behavior has worried you
    • Listen to and believe the student’s responses
    • Be supportive and encouraging if the student agrees to get help

    Resources

    The specific resources for your campus can be found here:

  • Misconduct, Inappropriate Behavior, and Classroom Disruption

    Recognize

    • Disruptive Conduct:Inappropriate outbursts or persistent interruptions, continued arguing beyond the scope of academic debate, use of threats
    • Becoming disrespectful in online forum posts or in Zoom sessions
    • Openly refusing to turn in/complete homework assignments

    Respond

    • Express concern and care
    • Explain the impact of student’s behavior on the group or class
    • Clarify or outline your expectations
    • Contact police if student does not respond to your intervention and continues serious disorderly conduct and threatening behaviors

    Resources

    The specific resources for your campus can be found here:

  • Crime, Victimization, Hazing

    Recognize

    • Appears fearful, anxious, nervous, or angry
    • Mentions feeling isolated or feeling a lack of social support
    • Visible injuries or bruises
    • Cuts, brands, or scars with a distinct pattern
    • Unusual absence of or damage to personal items such as laptop, cellphone, etc.

    Respond

    • Express concern and care
    • Listen to and believe the student’s responses
    • Do not interpret student’s emotions as evidence of crime
    • Avoid criticizing, sounding judgmental, minimizing or blaming. Say things like, “I’m sorry that happened, but I’m glad you’re safe now.” and “Thank you for trusting me enough to tell me.”

    Resources

    The specific resources for your campus can be found here:

  • Violence, Harassment, Interpersonal/Sexual Assault

    Recognize

    • Appears fearful or unusually anxious about pleasing the professor, fellow classmates during group projects, etc.
    • Apologizes or makes excuses for partner/other’s behavior
    • Mentions partner/other’s possessiveness, jealousy, or violent behavior, but may laugh it off
    • Injuries or bruises visible via Zoom, with illogical or no explanations
    • Crying or leaving when sexual violence, domestic violence, stalking, or child abuse is brought up

    Respond

    • Express concern and care
    • Listen to and believe student’s responses
    • Do not interpret student’s emotions as evidence of assault or violence
    • Avoid criticizing, sounding judgmental, minimizing, or blaming
    • Recommend (or, if necessary, insist upon) medical intervention
    • Provide information on resources and reporting options
    • Say things like, “You’ve been through something very frightening. I’m so sorry.”

    Resources

    The specific resources for your campus can be found here:

Student Care Network

The Student Care Network allows you to share concerns about a student’s well-being, behavior, or academic performance with colleagues who can help. After submitting a report, the Office of the Dean of Students will contact you to gather additional information, talk about the situation, and identify next steps.

The goal is to determine the best way to connect the student with resources that support their success without causing additional stress. Visit studentcare.wsu.edu for more information.

Campus Resources

Access Center
Provides accommodations and services to WSU students with documented disability/medical needs.

Center for Community Standards 509-335-4532
Addresses violations of community standards for students.

Employee Assistance Program 1-877-313-4455
Provides WSU employees counseling, education, and consultation services.

Office of Civil Rights Compliance and Investigation 509-335-8288
Intake office for complaints of discrimination, discriminatory harassment, sexual harassment, and sexual misconduct. Central resource for university civil rights compliance.

Office of the Dean of Students 509-335-5757
Supports student success by providing financial assistance, academic support, guidance, and referrals.

Office of the University Ombudsman 509-335-1195
Serves as an impartial and neutral resource to assist all members of the university community.

Office Veterans Affairs & Student Veterans Center 509-335-1234
Serves all active duty military, reservists, veterans, and their families.

Community Resources

Crisis Text Line Text HOME to 741741

National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-7233

Provides confidential and free support to victims of domestic violence 24 hours a day.  Advocates can provide information on safety planning and local resources, as well as provide referral services.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255

Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN) 1-800-656-HOPE

Operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline (1-800-656-HOPE) which provides free, confidential services 24 hours a day.  RAINN also partners with many local rape crisis centers across the country and operates the DoD Safe Helpline (1-877-995-5247) for the Department of Defense.  Information about local counseling centers and victim advocates can also be found on their website.