Helpful Hints for Dealing with Distressed/Tearful/Upset Students

  1. Firstly, try and stay as relaxed as you can in your dealings with the student. This will also help the student to feel more relaxed and calmer.
  2. If you feel confident to do so, accompany the student to a quiet area (although not isolated), and remember to notify a colleague of your whereabouts.
  3. Give the student your undivided attention. It is possible that just a few minutes of effective listening on your part may be enough to help the student feel comfortable about what to do next.
  4. If the student starts to discuss any issue you feel may have legal implications (e.g. assault, rape, a child protection matter, illegal drug use, etc) advise the student that you will need to speak to your department Coordinator as soon as possible. You should also state that you can not promise confidentiality.
  5. Explain sensitively that you are not a licensed counselor, and that you are there to listen, but not to advise.
  6. If you have initiated the contact, express your concern in behavioral, nonjudgmental terms (e.g. “I’ve noticed you’ve been absent from class lately and I’m concerned,” rather than “Where have you been lately? Goofing off again?”).It is important that you describe specifically to the student the behaviors that have raised your concern. 
  7. Avoid global statements like, “You’ve been acting strange lately.”  Such statements give the student no real information and may lead the student to feel judged, self-conscious, or defensive.
  8. If, after describing the behaviors that concern you, the student does not seem willing to talk, you may want to tell the student about the free professional counseling services that are available.
  9. You should avoid giving personal details (such as mobile phone or home phone) and you should resist temptation to offer a lift anywhere. You should be mindful of your personal safety and professional reputation at all time and not put yourself at risk!

Refer the student to our website at, as well as our other contact information: Smucker Learning Center 330-684-8960 330-684-8767.