Be prepared to respond to students’ implicit or explicit efforts to express mental health struggles. If a student reaches out about mental health challenges via email, it is important to send a sincere, compassionate, and informative reply that is appropriate for your relationship with the student and the level of distress expressed in the email. If the student is at risk for self- or other harm, forward the email to the Dean of Students Office. For information on assessing suicide risk, consult with UHS Mental Health staff at 608-265-5600 (option 2 during business hours, option 9 for crisis consultation).
Sample email responses:
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I received your message and am deeply concerned about you. Please come to my office, call, or email me so I can be sure you are OK. I contacted the Dean of Students Office and UHS so they can assist us both with making sure you are safe. Please note that the UHS mental health crisis line is available 24/7 at 608-265-5600 (option 9).
I am so sorry that you are struggling with such serious issues. Please do not worry about the missed exam for now; spend the time that you need taking care of yourself and your mental health. If you are not already connected to help, UHS has comprehensive counseling services and other options. You can drop in any time during business options to schedule an initial consultation. If you ever feel unsafe or just want someone to talk to, you can also call the mental health crisis line 24/7 at 608-265-5600 (option 9).
To help you with some of your academic concerns, I contacted the Dean of Students Office. I promise you are not in any trouble. The folks there are really invested in student well-being and can help you navigate different support services. I encourage you to stop in during their drop-in hours.
Please keep in touch and let me know if there is anything else I can do to help.
I was just reflecting on our advising appointment today and I’m concerned about some of the things you said to me. It seems like you have a lot going on right now and feel overwhelmed. I’m here to support you in whatever capacity I can, but I think it would also be helpful for you to talk to a mental health professional.
UHS Mental Health Services offers a range of free services for students, including wellness and stress-reduction options, “Let’s Talk” drop-in opportunities, group therapy, and individual therapy. They are great at working with students who have never been to see a mental health counselor before. You can go to the 7th floor at UHS (333 East Campus Mall) Monday through Friday to schedule an initial consultation.
UHS also has a 24/7 mental health crisis line at 608-265-5600 (option 9). Please call this number if you ever feel so overwhelmed that you’re concerned about your own safety or well-being.
I know that classes at such a demanding university can be extremely stressful. You are not alone in the anxiety that you have been experiencing, and the professionals at UHS can help.
Additional communication strategies
For additional strategies related to how to have conversations about difficult topics, visit the Trauma-Informed Teaching Practices section of this Toolkit.