Concerned about a student

Concerned about a student

ASU Counseling is here to help

Knowing how to help a student isn’t always easy but taking the steps to do so doesn’t have to be done alone. ASU Counseling is here to help. Students, faculty and staff, parents, and family members are encouraged to contact us if they have a concern about an ASU student.

Faculty and staff

Often faculty and staff are in a pivotal position to positively influence a student and encourage the student to seek help. As consultants, our role is to help you determine the best course of action for addressing your concern. We accomplish this by discussing your concerns and brainstorming with you ways in which you can help. 

The How to Help a Student in a Mental Health Crisis article by The Chronicle of Higher Education provides a summary of the types of strategies we typically recommend.

Link to article

In addition, here are some common situations in which it might make sense to call us to consult:

  • Individuals exhibiting unusual behavior or presenting safety concerns in a classroom or residence hall

  • Professors expressing concern about the well-being of a student

  • Parents concerned about their student’s academic functioning

  • Students concerned about the behaviors or habits of another student

  • Situations in which multiple students experience a traumatic event, such as the death of a student, or a national or local event impacting students

We can also be helpful by providing the following information on how to:

  • Identify a student in distress

  • Talk to a student who seems to be depressed, anxious or suicidal

  • Suggest getting professional assistance to someone 

  • Handle a disruptive or threatening student

  • Make an appointment for counseling services

What can you do?

You can discuss your concerns directly with the student and listen for their response. Talking about a problem or labeling a crisis does not make it worse. It is the first step to resolving it. If you are referring a student to us, some students find it comforting to call from your office or have someone accompany them to our office. ASU Counseling Services provides crisis intervention for students who are experiencing a mental health crisis.

During office hours, please call any ASU Counseling Service location and request to speak to a counselor on duty. ASU counselors are happy to consult with you about students of concern. Counselors can provide information about spotting a student in distress, talking to a student who seems depressed, anxious or suicidal, handling a disruptive or threatening student, and making an appointment for counseling services.

If you need assistance outside of business hours, please call ASU’s 24-hour dedicated crisis line through EMPACT at 480-921-1006.


Parents and family members

ASU Counseling Services offers parents and family members the opportunity to talk with a counselor about concerns they may have about their student. Parents and family members can be very helpful in encouraging their student to seek help.

Some common situations parents and family members of students contact us for consultation are:

  • A drop in grades

  • Repeated absences from class

  • Avoidance or reduction in contact with family  

  • Expressions of hopelessness or worthlessness

  • Discussion of suicidal ideation

  • More withdrawn or animated than usual

  • Deterioration in personal hygiene

  • Personality change

  • Excessive sleepiness or, conversely, a need for little sleep

  • A hunch or gut-level reaction that something is wrong

ASU Counseling staff can be helpful by providing the following information:

  • How to know if your student is in distress

  • How to talk to your student who seems to be depressed, anxious or suicidal

  • How to suggest your student get professional assistance

  • How to make an appointment with ASU Counseling Services

  • What ASU and off-campus resources are available to assist your student

Friends and peers

Are you concerned about a friend? Are you wondering if you should talk to them about your concerns? If so, are you not sure what to say?

Friends are often among the first people to learn someone may be struggling emotionally. For example, friends or roommates may be very direct in sharing information with you about how they are feeling. Sometimes, friends may say everything is okay, but you notice changes or behaviors that suggest they may be having a difficult time. These are difficult situations to navigate and can often feel overwhelming. Below is some information to help you determine when to be concerned and how to help a friend get help.


Signs that someone may be in distress:


  • Repeated absences from classes

  • Missing deadlines or not completing assignments

  • Deterioration in quality of academic work

  • Disruptive behavior in class (e.g., angry remarks, frequent interruptions)

Personal and interpersonal

  • Frequent crying spells

  • Social isolation or withdrawal

  • Unprovoked anger or hostility

  • Sad or anxious mood

  • Significant confusion or bizarre statements


  • Deterioration of physical appearance

  • Looking disheveled or not attending to personal hygiene

  • Excessive fatigue

  • Visible changes in weight

Safety and risk indicators

  • Written or verbal statement expressing suicidal thoughts or thoughts of harming others

  • Giving away prized possessions

  • History of suicidal thoughts or attempts

  • Self-injuries or self-destructive behaviors

  • Concerns about alcohol or other drug use

What can you do?

If you choose to speak with your friend, below are some tips to guide your discussion:

A direct expression of concern to your friend is an appropriate course of action if:

  • You feel comfortable doing so.
  • Your friend is not in a serious mental health crisis (e.g., where immediate professional help is needed to address safety concerns or other extreme circumstances).

Make sure you find a private space and choose a time when you both can be uninterrupted and focused on the conversation.

  • Do not promise confidentiality. Depending on what your friend discloses, you may have to alert professionals to make sure your friend and others remain safe. Although you cannot promise to keep anything a secret, you can promise to respect your friend’s privacy by only sharing information with professionals or others who can help if needed.
  • Focus on the behaviors. Many people experience some discomfort when they receive feedback about themselves. The most effective way to decrease an individual’s sensitivity and potential defensiveness is to focus on their behavior, not their personality, and avoid making interpretations about why they are engaging in the behavior. For example, it is better to say “I am concerned about you because I noticed you have not gone to class in a couple of weeks and you are sleeping a lot” rather than “I think you might be depressed.”
  • Avoid judgment. Regardless of the situation or circumstances, most people do not like to be judged. You may have opinions about your friend’s behavior, but remember that the behavior reflects their struggle to cope effectively with stress or difficult emotions. Make an effort to be aware of your opinions and keep these private.
  • Listen. Listening is more than just hearing what someone says, it also includes someone feeling heard. General listening skills such as speaking softly, not interrupting, maintaining eye contact, reflecting back what you are hearing, clarifying, and being patient can be very helpful. Remember silence provides someone with the opportunity to share more.Try to resist the temptation to fill in the silence if there are brief lapses in conversation.
  • Suggest helpful resources. After you have given your friend space and time to respond to your concerns and share their thoughts and feelings, try to engage them in collective brainstorming about a range of possible solutions. Remember there are numerous resources at ASU to assist students with challenges or stressors they are facing. If you are not sure what resources are available, ask a faculty or staff member. If you think your friend may benefit from speaking with a counselor, you can accompany your friend to any ASU Counseling Services location, Monday to Friday,  between 8 a.m.- 5 p.m., and ask to speak with a counselor. No appointment is necessary. Sometimes accompanying someone can be the additional support they need to seek professional help.
  • Reconnect and follow up. Your friend may need time to digest and process your concerns, it can be a lot from them to take in all at once. After a few days, reconnect and check in to see how they are doing. Express your genuine concern and offer further support or assistance.

Helping someone in distress can be overwhelming and stressful. Know that you are not alone and that there are numerous resources at ASU available to support you and to help make sure your friend gets help. For example, Open Call Open Chat providers are available 24-hours per day, 7 days per week, to discuss your concerns and to help you determine what path is best given your friend’s circumstances. Also, during business hours, 8am-5pm, ASU Counseling Staff are available to talk through your concerns, call 480-965-6146. Providers can also inform you of other resources available to address challenges your friend may be experiencing.Through difficult times, take advantage of the support available to you and your friend.

In case of an emergency

If your friend appears to be in extreme distress or has made any statements suggesting their safety or the safety of others may be at risk, you need to consult immediately. During business hours, call ASU Counseling Services at 480-965-6146. After business hours and on weekends, call EMPACT’s 24-hour,  ASU’s dedicated crisis line: 480-921-1006.  If someone is in immediate danger, call 911.

ASU students can also connect with emotional health and well-being support 24-hours per day, 7 days per week, 365 days per year, from anywhere in the world! For more information and to create your account, visit Open Call and Open Chat

In-person and telehealth counseling is available on all four Phoenix metropolitan campus locations, call us at 480-965-6146 or visit the ASU My Health Portal to schedule an appointment.