Responding to Students In Distress

In your role as a staff or faculty at Evergreen, you may come in contact with students who are distressed. Each member of the Evergreen community has a responsibility to help students succeed. Campus wellness is a campus issue, not solely individual members. 

No one has to do everything. Everyone has to do something.

How To Identify Students in Distress

At one time or another, everyone feels upset or distressed. Sometimes we just have a bad day. However when layers of struggle, challenge, and distress are present over time, it suggests problems/challenges could warrant more attention. A starting place of response is non-judgment.


Although not disruptive to others in classroom or campus, these behaviors in students may indicate something is wrong and that help may be needed:

  • Serious grade problems
  • Significant drop in attendance or performance
  • Changes in relationships and ways of involvement/interaction
  • Marked change in mood, motor activity, or speech
  • Changes in behavior, hygiene, affect, and engagement


These behaviors in students may indicate significant emotional distress or a reluctance or inability to acknowledge a need for personal help:

  • Repeated request for special considerations
  • New or regularly occurring behavior that pushes the limits and may interfere with class or program management or be disruptive to others
  • Unusual, exaggerated, and/or persistent emotional responses


​In many cases, these behaviors may show that a student is in crisis and needs emergency care:

  • Highly disruptive behavior (hostility, aggression, etc)
  • Inability to communicate clearly (garbled, slurred speech, disjointed thoughts)
  • Loss of contact with reality
  • Overt suicidal or homicidal thoughts or threats
  • Individuals deficient in skills that regulate emotion, cognition, self, behavior, and relationships

Tools for Communicating/Responding

If the situation is less severe, you think the student might be open to discussing their concerns with you and you are comfortable and willing to do so

  • Calmly and respectfully express your concerns and share that you have noticed they have been having difficulties. Use specific examples, if possible, to describe the behavior.
  • Listen sensitively and compassionately
  • Offer clear paths to support highlighting resources and referrals that the student may utilize
  • Restate any boundaries, expectations, and/or plan you determined together
  • Follow up as appropriate

If the situation is more severe, or disruptive, and you feel comfortable having a conversation with the student

  • Express your care
  • Acknowledge and share your concerns with specific observable behaviors they are exhibiting
  • Offer consideration of resources
  • Restate expectations and reaffirm boundaries of your role and setting
  • Document your concerns EARLY! Early intervention is preferred rather than allowing a situation to escalate and continue to impact our community. 
    • Send an informational referral to the CARE Team 

Respond to those students who disclose their personal concerns and lives to you by:

  • Active & Genuine Listening
  • Avoid judging, labeling, and/or diagnosing behaviors or a person's reality
  • Keep your own limits and boundaries in mind. Do not promise anything you can't guarantee
  • Making sure you and the student(s) are "safe" to the best of your ability
  • Refer to resources as needed and available

If the crisis is life threatening or behavior is extreme

  • Call Police 911 or 360.867.6832
  • Be calm, clear, and simple
  • Remember safety of all parties; if you feel escalation is happening do not attempt an intervention. Keep your distance and continue to monitor until other help has arrived.

If the concern is specific to Title IX, please contact the Title IX Coordinator 360.867.5224 / SEM 1 4119 as a responsible employee.

If the concern is specific to discrimination, harassment, or retaliation, please contact the Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity office 360.867.5371 / LIB 3102. 

Remember you may always consult with the CARE Team.

Self care for those involved in the situation, including you and others who are supporting that person are important. Services and resources are available for you!

Therapist Assisted Online

TAO Self Help is an interactive, dynamic, easy-to-access online program that provides support for anxiety, depression and other common concerns. As a TAO participant, each week you will watch short videos, and complete skill-building exercises.

TAO is tailored to fit your schedule and your needs:

  • The exercises can be completed through a smartphone, tablet, or computer
  • The online TAO programs are accessible 24/7

TAO is an effective and easy-to-access option for managing your anxiety, depression, or other concerns. If you are interested in trying out this program or if you have any questions, comments, or feedback, feel free to contact Student Wellness Services.

Self-Help Quick Start Guide (PDF)