This page is for the outside observer, to help you identify concerning behaviors and respond in your normal life. While we still encourage you to submit a concern to the Care Team, we also recognize that that option is not always immediately available. If you feel a student requires immediate assistance or may not seek out counseling on their own, you can walk them over to Counseling and Testing in Grace Wilkie 320.

If dangerous or suicidal behavior appears imminent or has already occurred, contact University Police at (316) 978-3450 or dial 911.

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Tips for Recognizing Persons in Distress
What You Can Do to Help
Responding to Suicidal Concerns

Tips for Recognizing Persons in Distress

At one time or another everyone feels upset or distressed. However, there are three levels of concern which, when present over a period of time, suggest that the problems are greater than the "normal" ones. It is important to consider each type of behavior in context for the individual in question. Some examples for each level of concern follow:

Troubling: Causes us to feel alarmed, upset, or worried for a person's well being.

  • Changes in academic performance in the classroom
  • Disjointed speech or writings
  • Persistent sadness or unexplained crying
  • Change in patterns of social interaction
  • Changes in physical appearance or personal hygiene
  • Problems concentrating and remembering things or making decisions

Disruptive: Interferes with or disrupts the educational process of other students or the normal functions of the University.

  • Vague threats to self or others
  • Demanding, verbally abusive, or intimidating behavior
  • High levels of irritability or inappropriate excitement
  • Loss of contact with reality (seeing hearing things that are not there, beliefs or actions at odds with reality)

Threatening: Typically leaves us feeling frightened and in fear for our safety or the safety of others.

  • Physical confrontations or attacks
  • Direct threats of harming self or others
  • Displays a weapon
  • Sends threatening correspondence

If you are not sure about someone's wellbeing, submit a report; it's best to err on the side of caution, and no one will get in trouble either way.

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What Can You Do To Help

Responses to Troubling Behavior:

  • Initiate a private, nonconfrontive conversation with the person about your concerns
  • Identify options available to the individual and make referrals to campus resources for help
  • Assist the individual with accessing the departments to which you have referred
  • Make sure the person understands what action is necessary and make plans to follow up with them

Responses to Disruptive Behavior:

  • Verbally ask that the disruptive behavior stop
  • If behavior does not stop, ask the person to leave the area, or leave yourself if necessary
  • Inform person of the expected behavior changes, timeline for changes, and the consequences should behavior not change by that time
  • If possible, discuss the reasons for the disruptive behavior and refer to a department with expertise in that area
  • Document the interactions

Responses to Threatening Behavior:

  • Immediately contact University Police at 911 or (316) 978-3450
  • If it involves a student, also inform the Campus Life and University Relations Office
  • If it involves a staff member of the University, also inform the department chair/director or Human Resources
  • Consult with the Counseling & Testing Center to debrief and assist you once the initial crisis is resolved

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Responding to Suicidal Concerns

When a person makes any reference to suicide, threat of suicide, or an attempt at suicide, a judgment should be made by a mental health professional about the seriousness of a possible suicidal thought or behavior.

References to or threats of self harm should be treated seriously. Mental health evaluations and treatment are available at the Counseling & Testing Center at (316) 978-3440.

Suicide attempts are first and foremost a medical emergency. If dangerous or suicidal behavior appears imminent or has already occurred, contact University Police at (316) 978-3450 or dial 911.

To Save a Life, Remember QPR (Question, Persuade, and Refer)

Question the person about suicide
Persuade the person to get help
Refer for help

For more information, you can pursue QPR and Mental Health First Aid trainings.

To learn more about suicide prevention, check out WSUWeSupportU.

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