Here's How to Help

Faculty members and classified professionals are often in a unique position to help students who are struggling or in crisis. This webpage has useful tips for determining when students may be in need, and how to help them.

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Quick Contacts

REport an Incident or Concern

Basic Response Protocol

In most cases, an appropriate response can be determined by asking yourself:

  • Is the student a danger to self or others?
  • Does the student need immediate assistance for any reason?

Your answer will help you determine how to proceed.

Indicators: Signs of Distress or Crisis

If you see something, say something, and do something, you can save a life.

A student’s behavior may be an indicator of distress or other struggles they are experiencing. Changes to behaviors may happen gradually and over time. You might be the first person to recognize the warning signs, especially if you have frequent and prolonged contact with them. If a student's conduct leaves you feeling threatened, concerned or unsettled, act on your instincts. You may be the catalyst to them receiving help! 

Academic Indicators

  • Pattern of repeated absences with or without communication
  • Decline in grades, qualityof work or participation
  • Bizarre content in class submissions
  • Repeated classroom disruptions

Social Indicators

  • Marked elevation in, or decline in, engagement with peers or other campus activities
  • Noticeable changes in physical appearance, grooming, hygiene or weight
  • Concern from peers

Psychological Indicators

  • Self-disclosure of distress – e.g., interpersonal issues, suicidal thoughts or grief
  • Disproportional emotional responses – e.g., excessive tearfulness, panic
  • Verbal abuse – e.g., taunting, badgering or intimidation

Safety Risk Indicators

  • Unprovoked anger or hostility
  • Implied or direct threats to harm self or others
  • Stalking or harassing
  • Communicating threats digitally via email, text, phone calls or social media
  • Visible injuries or bruises on the body 

A Note About Confidentiality and FERPA

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) permits communication about a student of concern in connection with a health and safety emergency. It is not a FERPA violation to share – with appropriate parties – observations of a student's conduct or statements, or information about a student's actions or behaviors. In other words, such information may be shared with college administrators, campus police or Student Health Services to promote student and campus safety. Please remember that if you are using email to share student identifying information for this purpose, you should ONLY use your Foothill-De Anza district Outlook account AND select the option to encrypt the email before sending.

Guidelines for Intervention

Contact the Mental Health and Wellness Center, Student Health Services or Campus Police for consultation on the severity or urgency of the situation, and strategies for how to best support you and the student. Act sooner rather than later.

In an emergency, don't hesitate to call 9-1-1 (from a landline) or 408.924.8000 (from a cellphone while on campus).

Here are some additional guidelines for intervening with a distressed or disruptive student.

  • Distressed Student

    • While staying safe and maintaining the boundaries of your professional role, let the student know you are concerned about them and would like to help
    • Provide information regarding services at the Mental Health and Wellness Center.
    • Offer a warm hand-off email, introducing the student to the staff at MHWC or offer to walk them over personally to RSS 258 (second floor of Registration and Student Services Building).
    • Stay calm; demonstrate and express that it is OK to not be OK.
    • Provide time and space for the student to discuss their thoughts and feelings. Some may not open up right away or directly. Avoid offering lots of advice or solutions.
    • Avoid offering advice or solutions. Instead, encourage the student to seek appropriate help or services.
    • Complete a Maxient report
  • Disruptive Student

    • Ensure the physical safety of yourself and those present
    • Use a calm, assertive but nonconfrontational approach to defuse and de-escalate the situation
    • Set boundaries by explaining how the behavior is inappropriate
    • If the disruptive behavior persists, notify the student that action may be taken to ensure their safety and the safe of others who are present
    • If possible, ask the student to leave
    • Call 9-1-1 if there is an immediate safety risk or behaviors continue to escalate
    • Immediately file an incident report with campus police and complete a Maxient report.

Campus and Community Resources

Do's and Don'ts

  • Do

    • Speak with the student privately if possible
    • Consider allowing the person to briefly vent and tell you what is upsetting them, if you are comfortable doing so, and acknowledge their feelings
    • Let the student know you are concerned about their well-being. Express your concern by describing changes you have observed, using nonjudgmental terms
    • Be supportive but set clear boundaries. Explain clearly and directly what behaviors are appropriate: “I’m willing to speak with you as soon as you lower your voice.”
    • Make clear in what ways you can help the student, as well as what is beyond your scope.
    • Be assertive, fair, consistent, and honest
    • Suggest resources; help the student explore options
    • Point out that seeking help is a sign of strength and courage, rather than weakness or failure
    • Consult with appropriate individuals about your concerns, but refrain from sharing students’ personal struggles indiscriminately
    • Make personal referrals. Give the name of an individual when possible. Call ahead to brief that person or offer to accompany the student if you're able to do so
    • Document the exchange and report it to the dean of Student Development by using the Maxient reporting system
    • Consider following up with the student after you refer them – if you are comfortable doing so, and if you think it may be helpful
  • Don't

    • Don’t ignore the unusual behavior
    • Don’t minimize the situation
    • Don’t get into an argument or shouting match
    • Don’t judge or criticize
    • Don’t blame, ridicule or use sarcasm
    • Don’t make physical contact
    • Don’t ignore your own limitations
    • Don’t make the problem your own
    • Don’t promise confidentiality
    • Don’t involve yourself beyond the limits of your time, skill or job duties

The information on this webpage is brought to you by the De Anza College Harm Evaluation Assessment Reduction Team (HEART). HEART works to improve communication across campus by gathering more detailed information on individuals of concern, in order to assess and address potential risks, while implementing intervention strategies to prevent harm.

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