Skip to Main Content

Responding to Students in Distress or Crisis

The University encourages and supports faculty and staff who respond to students in distress. Students in distress often display behavior that may pose a threat to self or others, such as:

  • Demonstrated dysfunction academically, socially or with employment
  • Demonstrated inability to care for oneself (e.g., poor hygiene)
  • Other behavior posing a threat to the student (e.g., drug abuse)
  • Suicidal talk, gestures, intentions, or attempts
  • Threats or aggression directed toward others

Your responsibilities are not to diagnose or provide therapy; it is the development of a compassionate and forthright conversation that ultimately helps a student in trouble find understanding, support, and the proper resources. If the student requires immediate medical attention, hospitalization, is unmanageable (e.g., aggressive, hostile, refusing care), or if you feel directly threatened by a student or feel others are at risk:

  • Call the police at 911 or (904) 620-2800. Be sure to inform the dispatcher of your location, e.g., "I'm at UNF in Building 2, first floor, Room 1332."

Additional resources for responding to students in crisis include:

  • The UNF Counseling Center is available to students and those acting on their behalf Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The Center can be reached by calling (904) 620-2602 and is located in Founder's Hall (Building 2), Suite 2300. For after hours, the mental health helpline can be reached by calling 904-620-2602 and selecting option #2 after the voicemail system is engaged.
  • The UNF Victim Advocacy Program is available 24 hours a day at (904) 620-1010 to assist persons impacted by crime through a broad range of services including but not limited to: crisis intervention, accompaniment through the judicial process and referrals. The Victim Advocacy Program is located in Founder's Hall (Building 2), Suite 2100.

What You Can Do:

  • Assist the student in moving to a quiet, safe and secure place, if possible.
  • Enlist the help of someone else so the student is not left alone and you are not left alone with the student.
  • Listen attentively and respond in a straightforward and considerate way. Take notes if possible including the date and time.
  • When contacting a campus resource, have as much information available as possible, including your name, the student's name and location, an accurate description of the student, a description of the circumstances, time and date of the incident and the types of assistance possibly needed.
  • When appropriate, contact the Supporting our Students (SOS) team and/or the Dean of Students Office as soon as possible at (904) 620-1491, Building #2, Founders Hall, Room 1011.
  • Consider adding the contact information for the UNF Counseling Center to your syllabi:

UNF Counseling Center

1 UNF Drive, Building 2, Room 2300, Founders Hall

Jacksonville, FL 32224-7699

Tel: (904) 620-2602 and Fax: (904) 620-1085


Please review this page to give yourself a general idea of the various issues students may be dealing with so you are aware of when a student should be referred to UPD, the Counseling Center or other campus resource to assist them. Once students are referred to the correct resource, you can work with that entity to assist the student. Please avoid trying to diagnose the student or to work with them individually to address many of the behaviors and conditions described on this page.


It is not that we do not want you to take the initiative to assist students, but instead you can best serve students by recognizing when they need assistance, referring them for help, and then working with the student in a collaborative nature through the different resources on campus and in the surrounding community. While you may have the best intentions, assisting students without including the appropriate resources may cause you difficulty with the students in the future (e.g. grading or other disputes) and further may result in you finding yourself more involved in a student's private issues than you may have anticipated.


Additionally, the best of intentions may result in the student not receiving the actual services needed in a timely manner and in some cases may result in the University having potential legal liability. As a university, our goal is to have the students be successful while obtaining services needed. Therefore, we hope this page provides you guidance regarding recognizing situations where students are in distress or are in need of professional assistance.


Please bookmark this page as a reference. If you perceive a situation, reread that section and make notes for future interactions with that student.