10 pointers for dealing with students in distress

Student Services - Man looking stressed using laptop.

1. Be clear about your role

We are not therapists or emergency services, and we do not have the duty of carer or support provided to those roles. Do not become the student’s keyworker.

2. Know your powers

What are the principle powers you possess? A tutors powers are:

  • Academic advice
  • Extensions
  • Extenuating circumstances
  • Resits
  • Deferral
  • Withdrawal
  • Signposting

3. Keep emails brief

Email correspondence with students in distress should be short, sympathetic and signposting

4. Manage high emotion

Give distressed students time and reassurance to calm down before talking.

5. Help the student problem solve

Help the student as a collaborator in working out what they can do next.

6. Secure commitment

Get the students to promise a course of action and anticipate obstacles.

7. Avoid idealisation

Do not get into 1-2-1 lock-up or a ‘special relationship’ with a student.

8. Know your limits

Notice the signs that you are becoming tired, overly stressed or burnt out in dealing with a student.

9. Give a clear message

If the student discloses an intention to harm self or others, be clear that you do not want them to do it.

10. Signpost to the appropriate service

These are listed below. Out of hours this may be GP, NHS 111 or Security.

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