Helping Students in Distress

WashU Cares specializes in connecting students to mental, medical, financial and academic resources by using supportive case management. We seek to empower students to be successful through life’s challenges and have ownership of their own experiences. Our services are designed to support Danforth campus students.

If you feel concerned about a student who may need help connecting to resources we accept referrals from all students, faculty, and staff. Please use the form on the WashU Cares website and a Case Manager* will reach out to you to get more information about your concern.

*Case Manager responses are dependent on caseloads and reports- this can result in delayed outreach to staff, faculty, and community members as we prioritize reaching out to the reported student.

View and Download Helping Students In Distress Red Folder

Campus Resources

  1. Habif Health and Wellness Medical Center: Medical Health Services
  2. Center for Counseling and Psychological Services (CCPS)
  3. Office for Religious, Spiritual and Ethical Life
  4. WashU Cares
  5. Career Center
  6. Center for Diversity and Inclusion
  7.  Disability Resources
  8.  Student Transitions & Family Programs (STFP)
    • 314-935-5040; toll free: 844-935-5040
    • Email STFP
  9. Office for International Students and Scholars (OISS)
  10. Residential Life
  11. Student Conduct and Community Standards
  12. Relationship Prevention and Sexual Violence Prevention Center (RSVP)
  13. The Gender Equity and Title IX Compliance Office
  14. The Learning Center
  15. Student Financial Services

Response Protocol
Follow the chart below to best determine who to contact when faced with a student or colleague who is distressed, disruptive, or in crisis.

Red Folder response protocol

Is the student or employee a danger to self or others, or do they need immediate assistance for any reason?


The person’s conduct is clearly and imminently reckless, disorderly, dangerous or threatening, including self-harm or a medical emergency

Call Washington University Police Department 314-935-5555 or 911 or Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, 988.

Not Sure

The person shows signs of distress, but I am unsure how serious it is. My interaction has left me feeling uneasy or concerned

Daytime Consultation: Center for Counseling and Psychological Services, 314-935-6695 or WashU Cares 314-935-3566

After Hours Consultation: TimelyCare, 833-484-6359


I’m not concerned for the person’s immediate safety, but they could use some support or resources

(For both Not Sure and No) Do the following:

Encourage them to utilize Center for Counseling and Psychological Services (CCPS) or the TimelyCare app. Refer the student to the resources listed in this folder. Submit a CARE Report with WashU Cares.

Indicators of Distress


A person’s behavior, especially if it changes over time, may be an indicator of distress. You might be the first person to recognize signs of distress, especially if you have frequent or prolonged contact with a student or colleague.

Trust your instincts if someone leaves you feeling worried, alarmed or threatened.


  • Unprovoked anger or hostility
  • Implied or direct threats to harm self or others
  • Stalking or harassing
  • Your gut feeling that there is a safety risk


  • Self disclosure of distress (relationship/family issues, grief, suicidal thoughts, etc.)
  • Excessive tearfulness, worry, anxiety, panic, fear, irritability or apathy
  • Extreme mood changes – extreme highs and lows
  • Verbal abuse
  • Concern from peers


  • Marked changes in physical appearance, grooming, hygiene or weight
  • Excessive fatigue or sleep disturbances
  • Intoxication, disorientation or smelling of alcohol and/or other drugs


  • Sudden decline in quality of work or grades
  • Avoiding friends or social situations
  • Problems concentrating or learning
  • Repeated absences
  • Bizarre content in writings or presentations
  • Repeated classroom disruptions

Confidentiality and FERPA

FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) permits communication about a student of concern in connection with a health and safety emergency. Observations of a student’s conduct or statements made by a student may be shared with college administrators, campus police, the counseling center, or other Washington University faculty and staff who need to know in order to promote student and campus safety.

Guidelines for Intervention

Contact Habif Health and Wellness (Medical), Center for Counseling and Psychological Services, WashU Cares, Work Life Solutions, or Washington University Police Department for consultation on the seriousness of the situation, as well as strategies for how to best support the person.

Act sooner rather than later, and remember—safety first! If you are concerned for your own safety or the safety of others, do not hesitate to call 911 or Washington University Police Department at (314) 935-5555.

Distressed Behavior

Let the individual know you are concerned about them and would like to help.

  • Allow them to discuss their thoughts and feelings, which often helps relieve pressure.
  • Ask about suicide directly: “Are you thinking about suicide or killing yourself?”
  • Really listen to their answer, and let them know you care.
  • Avoid offering lots of advice or solutions.
  • For students during business hours, give them information about counseling services. Call the Center for Counseling and Psychological Services first, and then if the student is willing and you are comfortable you can offer to walk the student over or provide a space for them to have a private virtual appointment.
  • For students outside of business hours, give them information about TimelyCare services and 988, the 24/7 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.

Disruptive Behavior

  • Ensure the safety of yourself and those present.
  • Use a calm, non-confrontational approach to defuse and de-escalate the situation.
  • Set limits by explaining how the behavior is inappropriate; if the behavior persists, notify the student that disciplinary action may be taken. Ask the student to leave. Call Washington University Police Department at 314-935-5555 if there is a safety risk.
  • Immediately file an incident report with WashU Cares if you’re concerned about someone’s well-being.
  • Ask them if they’re thinking about suicide.
  • Really listen to their answer, and let them know you care.
  • Refer them to the appropriate resources.