You know your students. If something concerns you, trust your gut and err on the side of checking in. It may turn out that nothing substantial is going on, but showing students you care is also a part of supporting mental health. Students—like all of us—fare better when they feel seen, cared for, and part of a community.

These are important signs to pay attention to, because they may indicate a student is struggling and need support:

  • Missed assignments
  • Repeated absences
  • Decline in academic performance
  • Reduced participation in class
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Inappropriate or exaggerated behavior
  • Alarming or worrisome content in assignments

Knowing when a student needs immediate help

A student may be at immediate risk and should be connected to professional mental health services right away if they:

  • Express despair. “Sometimes it feels like I’d be better off dead.”
  • Express hopelessness. “No matter what I do, nothing gets better. Sometimes I wonder if it’s even worth being here at all.”
  • Talk about leaving their family or friends. “I feel like I’m such a burden to them. They’d be better off without me.”
  • Mention self-harm. “It seems like the only thing that makes me feel better is cutting myself.”
  • Show signs of self-injury, including wearing long sleeves in warm weather to hide injuries.

What to do

  • Stay calm. This will help you think clearly about how to respond and can help reduce the student’s anxiety.
  • Let them know you hear them and want to help.
  • Help the student to connect with an urgent response resource. The Crisis Counselor on Call is available 24/7/365 at (336) 278-2222. Campus Safety and Police can be contacted 24/7 to request a welfare check for a student at (336) 278-5555.

Suicide and Crisis Lifeline: Phone or text 988 to immediate response

For emergencies requiring immediate intervention: call 911.

Stay with the student until help arrives.

How to Support Students Who are Struggling

Tips and resources when working with academically under-performing students

  1. Attempt to connect with the student: Send them a note to meet during office hours or before class begins.
    Share your observations and ask for their feedback on their performance.  (NOTE: for tips and a script on how to speak with students, click here.)
  2. Share resources either in person or over email and strongly encourage a connection
  3. Highlight important options that can assist with organization, study skills, and content knowledge.
  4. Learning Assistance Tutors (free) can help students prepare for classes, organize their assignments, manage time, and find new study paths.
  5. Content tutors (free, drop-in and by appointment)can assist with specific study tips for your class, can review important concepts, and assist the student in working through difficult problems (using examples).
  6. Encourage use of other resources based on unique circumstances: For students who disclose a disability (medical/mental health), strongly encourage them to connect with Disability Resources. Classroom accommodations can assist in creating an equitable classroom environment for the student.
  7. For students experiencing anxiety or other mental health needs, encourage regular connection with a counselor. Elon offers scheduled and on-demand virtual mental health support through TimelyCare 24/7 from anywhere in the United States. Scheduled in-person counseling is available  through Counseling Services.
  8. Share your observations using an e-warning: E-warnings are reviewed by advisors who can assist in connecting with the student. Students receive a copy that includes a summary of the resources above.  n addition to advisors, e-warnings are routinely assessed for patterns, thus, students with more e-warnings get noticed and outreach can occur. Without e-warnings, there is no basis to know if a student might need individualized outreach.While some faculty share concerns that an e-warning feels too formal, we strongly recommend faculty submit e-warnings as often as possible when concerns arise.
  9. Know when to suggest a course withdrawal or medical leave when appropriate: Students who are at risk of failing the class should strongly consider a course withdraw. All course withdraws must occur before the course withdraw deadline. Students who are at risk of failing all or most of their classes for medical, mental health, or hardship reasons should consider a leave of absence (withdraw from all classes).

Students can learn more about their academic strategies on the Office of the Dean of Students website.

Reaching out to a struggling student


  • Find a way to speak privately to the student, for instance after class when other students have left, or in your office.
  • Tell them what you are observing that makes you concerned.
  • Ask open-ended questions about how they are doing.
  • Let them know you are here to listen and connect them to support if they need it.
  • Share campus resources and ask if they need support or help in accessing them.
  • Report any concern that a student is at immediate risk in a timely manner (see next page) to campus authorities (Campus Safety and Police, Student Care and Outreach,the Office of the Dean of Students).


  • Underestimate the student’s struggles. It is far better to check in unnecessarily than to dismiss a potentially harmful situation.
  • Delay reporting a situation if you think a student may be at risk for a potentially harmful situation
    Promise confidentiality—you should always report a student who is at immediate risk of harming themselves.
  • Leave the student alone if you feel they are at immediate risk.

Approaching a struggling student

  • “I’ve noticed you’ve seemed a little down lately, so I wanted to check in with you.
    What’s been going on?”
  • “I noticed you missed class a few times. What’s going on for you?”
  • “You seem really tired in class lately. How are you doing these days?”

Responding to a student shares struggles with you

  • “I’m so glad you told me about this. Let’s brainstorm how we can get you some support.”
  • “Thank you for sharing this with me. There’s good support on campus—I’ll help
    connect you to it.”
  • “Wow, that sounds really hard. It makes sense you are struggling. Let’s figure out
    what on-campus supports can help you right now.”

Talking with a student who needs immediate help

  • “I understand that you are hurting right now. I am here to help you and connect you to good support on campus.”
  • “I hear that you feel hopeless right now. I’ve worked with the counseling center, and I think they could help. Let’s call now to schedule an appointment.”
  • “I can tell that you’re very upset, and I’m concerned about you. I’m going to connect you with someone who can help you stay safe.”If a student declines support, call Campus Safety and Police  or 911.