Students in Distress

The university experience looks and feels different for many students who embark on this journey. Supporting students is the responsibility of the university community. It is likely that faculty, staff, or other students will be in the best position to recognize the distress of a student. Faculty, staff and students can act as a bridge between a student in need of support and the resources that may assist the student.

This guide informs faculty, staff and students how to recognize signs of distress, provides tips on how to respond to distressed students’ observations and their concerns, and provides references which enable faculty, staff and students to determine who to contact. The type and amount of distress the student is experiencing will require different actions and resources.

  Safety First: If the student’s conduct is clearly dangerous or threatening,including self-harm or harm to others,
call FAU PD at 561-297-3500 (non-emergency) or call 911 (emergency).




Be aware of changes in students’ typical behavior. Distress may be displayed as an isolated change in behavior, or as a pattern. It may also appear as thoughts or behaviors that could impact the student’s health, safety or welfare. Common indicators of distress are listed below, but students may present with indicators not listed.

Safety Risk






As you respond to a student, your goal is to always keep your personal safety in the forefront of any interactions, to communicate in a way that helps the student feel heard, cared for, and supported, while also gathering information to get them connected to the best referral options. See yourself as a bridge between the student and the support they need. Whenever possible, seek out a safe and private place to have difficult conversations. Be thoughtful about respecting the student’s personal space.

Each situation is unique. Use these important tips to determine the most appropriate response for a distressed student.

Safety First: If the student’s conduct is clearly dangerous or threatening, including self-harm or harm to others, call FAU PD at 561-297-3500 (non-emergency) or call 911 (emergency).

Be Steady

Check in, Listen and Validate

Gather Information

Discuss Referrals and Next Steps



Serve as a bridge to the resources they need, based on the situation.

  Does the student need immediate assistance, or do they pose an immediate threat to themselves or others?



Not Sure



Download Students in Distress Guide





Most Common Resources for Students in Distress

Additional Resources


Title IX and Responding to Disclosures of Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment

Title IX regulations require Florida Atlantic University take mandatory steps when responding to sexual harassment incidents it has actual knowledge about. These regulations set out minimum steps FAU must take when responding to sexual harassment. The steps include but are not limited to notifying individuals impacted by sexual harassment about options they may find helpful. In addition, Title IX regulations have redefined sexual harassment to also include (i.e., hostile environment, Quid Pro Quo, sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking).

At Florida Atlantic University, when any supervisory employee or other official who has authority to institute corrective measures on behalf of the University who receives a report, observes or learns of an alleged violation of University Regulation 7.008 has an absolute and unqualified duty to promptly report the conduct to OCR9.

  1. Provide Care and Support
    1. Offer campus support services. Provide information about where campus support services are located. It is best to direct the student to Victim Services, who can help the student navigate what campus services the student may find helpful.
    2. Explain your confidentiality limitations (i.e., let the student know you must report the incident).
    3. Allow the student to decide what information they want to share. Do not push them to share. Thank the student for being brave to share.
  2. Connect student to campus resources
    1. FAU Victim Advocate, FAU CAPS, FAU Dean of Students, FAU Police, and FAU Office of Civil Rights and Title IX
    2. If students want to speak with someone confidentially, refer the student to FAU CAPS. FAU CAPS is not required to report detailed information about a sexual misconduct incident (e.g., names of the involved parties, location of incident, or details about what happened.)
  3. Report
    1. Report the incident via online reporting form: FAU | Report A Concern; Select Sexual Misconduct/Title IX for the reporting form.
    2. If you have questions after filling out the reporting form, contact the OCR IX office at 561-297-3004.



  • FAU Victim Services — 561-297-0500 (ask for victim advocate)
    • 24/7 resource available to faculty, staff, students and community members. Supports victims of crime in obtaining information related to reporting options, safety planning and connecting with campus and county resources. The office provides assistance for on and off campus incidents.
  • FAU Office of Civil Rights and Title IX — 561-297-3004
    • Responds to reports, addresses incidents, and investigates complainants regarding discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. OCR9 provides information and guidance about discrimination and harassment issues that concern race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, military or veteran status, marital status, pregnancy, parental status, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression that occur in the University community.