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Student Support releases Distress Guide for Faculty and Staff

New guide helps faculty and staff respond to student mental health concerns

February 23, 2022 — 

When observing students who are showing signs of mental health distress, it can be difficult to know exactly how to respond to their issues and approach them in a caring and supportive manner. For this reason, Student Support has created a new Distress Guide for faculty and staff that is designed to be easy to use and provides practical advice for helping students receive the best support possible.

“The idea for the Distress Guide grew out of recognition that UM faculty and staff were increasingly seeking consultation on how to respond to and approach students demonstrating mental health distress,” says David Ness, director of the Student Counselling Centre. “We subsequently wanted to develop a resource that would help faculty and staff become more knowledgeable and skilled in responding to requests for support and when reaching out to students who appear to be in distress.”

The Distress Guide is accessible via the University intranet and was created by a committee of director David Ness, Dr. Lori Mac and Michelle Pearson of the Student Counselling Centre, director of Student Support at Bannatyne Campus Leah Deane, Student Support case manager Jodie Schoenbeck, and health and wellness educators Britt Harvey and Bryanna Barker.

To make it as accessible as possible, the guide is broken into sections, such as urgent help and non-urgent help, and can be used quickly at any time – especially during times of great concern for a student. It can also be used for general education to learn more about mental health and to help recognize the signs of distress.

The goal of the guide is to help faculty and staff feel supported in their work and to know that if they do approach or respond to a student in distress, they have many supports available on campus to help them. It is not up to them alone to provide support.

“We believe the Distress Guide can help the UM community become even more supportive and caring toward students and facilitate connecting students to the supports they need for their overall well-being as well as for their academic success,” Ness says. “We hope the Distress Guide can decrease hesitancy that faculty and staff can experience when recognizing that a student may be in distress and they feel more confident in responding.”

Faculty and Staff are encouraged to review the Distress Guide and can access it via the University intranet here.

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