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Supporting Students in Distress

» How to Support Students in Distress as a Staff or Faculty Member

Connecting to Campus Resources

See something. Say something. Do something.

Chapman faculty and staff are uniquely positioned to witness changes in students’ well-being, behavior, and level of participation in class and in everyday activities. If you see an abrupt change or become concerned about a student's behavior, take the first step in seeking assistance for that student by sharing your concern directly with the student. Students may be unsure if they should ask for help or unsure how to do so. You can make referrals and remind the student that we are a community that cares about one another. Use guidelines on this site to frame your conversation.

After identifying concerning behaviors and connecting with the student directly if possible, Chapman staff members and faculty memberscan help the Dean of Students Office provide a coordinated response by notifying appropriate staff of your concern by filling out a Student Concern Informational Report. The context you provide may help staff address the concern more efficiently.

Once you connect a student to the Student Concerns Intervention Team (SCIT), Student Psychological Counseling Services (SPCS), or the Dean of Students Office, the student will be encouraged to meet with a staff member or administrator possibly more than once. Connecting a student to resources is only the first step in what can be a lengthy process. You may not see an immediate change or receive updates, but the University does take student well-being seriously and will follow up with the student directly.

If you feel a student’s current state has declined, or you think they need more support after making your initial referral, you may submit a follow-up a Student Concern Informational Report online to inform staff members of your ongoing or new concerns. However, if you feel the student has declined significantly and is now in a state of emergency, please call the appropriate authority: 911 for life-threatening emergencies or Public Safety’s 24/7 dispatch at 714-997-6763. Thank you for keeping our campus community safe, and thank you for looking out for the well-being of Chapman students.


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+ - When to Connect Students to Resources

Understanding Your Role

As a staff or faculty member, please connect to campus resources regarding a student you are concerned about in the following situations:

  • You realize that the student is in crisis or has significant problems that you feel requires professional help, and you are unable to handle them yourself
  • You recognize that the student has persistent problems which do not appear to get better with your help, or are getting worse
  • You see that the student is unwilling to take responsibility for their behavior or seems unable to recognize the impact their negative behavior has on themselves and others

A Note on Confidentiality

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) permits communication between appropriate faculty and staff about a student’s well-being or concerning behavior in a health or safety emergency. Observations of a student’s conduct or statements made by a student are not FERPA protected. Please share such information with appropriate parties on campus, such as the Dean of Students Office, if you have a health or safety concern to seek advice on how to handle the situation and so that the staff may offer resources and support.

Sexual Misconduct and Title IX Obligations

Chapman is committed to fostering a campus free of sexual misconduct in all of its forms. Faculty and staff who receive information about potential harassment, discrimination, or sexual misconduct or who are otherwise concerned that a member of the Chapman community may have engaged in or been affected by sexual harassment, discrimination, or sexual misconduct are required to report to a Title IX Coordinator. Learn more at the Title IX website.

+ - For Non-Emergency Student Concerns, Distressed Students, or Unusual Behavior

Several key administrators with experience responding to student concerns and crises comprise the Student Concerns Intervention Team (SCIT). SCIT helps students facing academic, social, relationship-based, psychological, medical, financial, or behavioral issues. Please look out for sudden changes in behavior and to connect with SCIT if you are concerned about a student. SCIT will connect directly with the student within a few days to offer support. Fill out an online SCIT form to share your concern with the team, but please keep in mind that these forms are not for emergencies. Emergencies should be reported by calling 911 or Public Safety.

+ - Students Who Wish to Meet with Someone

The Dean of Students Office has several staff members who meet with students regularly to discuss small and large issues and personal concerns that may negatively impact the student or their academic success. The Dean of Students Office case manager has a primary role in meeting with students one-on-one and making proper referrals to on-campus and off-campus resources. Refer the student to schedule an appointment with the case manager by calling 714-532-6042 or emailing martinezgutierrez@chapman.edu.

+ - Mental Health Concerns

Please contact Student Psychological Counseling Services (SPCS) to help a student get connected or learn more about short-term counseling services. Support is available after hours by calling the main line of SPCS at 714-997-6778.

Please note that once a student meets with a counselor at SPCS, any information about the student, even information about whether they are attending counseling sessions, cannot be shared with anyone without the student’s written permission.

+ - Student Possibly Violating Policy

Please contact the Dean of Students Office or Student Conduct if you are concerned about a student’s behavior that may violate University policy. Call 911 or contact Chapman Public Safety at 714-997-6763 if a crime has occurred or if there is a safety concern.

+ - Student Disrupting Class but Not Posing a Threat

If a student is causing a disruption but you are not concerned about anyone’s safety, use a calm, non-confrontational approach to try to de-escalate the situation. Set limits on what behavior you accept in the classroom or office, and if needed, ask the student to step out. For faculty, this is covered in the Classroom Behavior section of the catalog. Contact the appropriate resource(s) listed on this page if disruptions persist or you become concerned about a student’s well-being.

+ - Psychological Emergencies

A psychological emergency exists when, if someone doesn’t get immediate help, serious psychological or physical consequences result. Call 911 or contact Chapman Public Safety’s 24/7 dispatch at 714-997-6763 immediately.

+ - If You Feel Unsafe

The safety of our community is our primary concern. Please do not put yourself or others in harm’s way in order to assist a student in crisis. Call 911 or Chapman Public Safety at 714-997-6763 immediately.

Steps for Referring Students to Resources

Staff and faculty members here at Chapman have an opportunity to connect with students and help students engage in help-seeking behavior by sharing information with students about campus resources. Consider these steps for making a proper referral.


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+ - Be Proactive and Direct

First, get to know students you work with to better understand if there may be a concerning change in their behavior. Being proactive means being aware and observant.

If you notice something concerning, address the concerns you have in a caring, but straightforward manner with the student directly if you feel comfortable doing so. Point out the student’s behaviors that concern you, using statements that begin with “I” instead of “you.” It’s helpful to note the magnitude and duration of these behaviors: “I’m concerned about you because you’ve seemed very withdrawn and uncommunicative for the past three weeks.”

+ - Listen Sensitively and Carefully, and Remember Safety First

Use a non-confrontational approach and calm voice. Listen to the student’s concerns and needs to determine if and how to refer the student to campus resources. Avoid threatening, humiliating, or intimidating responses.

While listening to the student, please keep your own safety in mind as well. The welfare of the campus community is the top priority, and so please consider other resources you may need if you begin to feel unsafe. If a student is displaying potentially violent behavior, call Chapman Public Safety at 714-997-6763 and do not compromise your own safety. Setting boundaries from the beginning is important.

+ - Share the Resource and Why

Depending on what you have heard from the student, determine resources you feel are most appropriate to share with the student. You may recommend that the student seek counseling or assistance from the Dean of Students Office and give your reason: “I think it would be helpful for you to talk with a Chapman staff member, case manager, or a therapist who has expertise in this area and who is best equipped to help you. I want you to know that I’m concerned about you and want to remain in contact, but I think you would benefit from someone else’s help too.

+ - Consider Other Factors

Don’t force the idea of seeking further assistance, as it may jeopardize the relationship you have with the student. Keep in mind that their past experiences, culture, and background can all play a factor in their perception of seeking counseling or resources. The student may need to hear that it is okay to seek help, but if they are not ready, it is important to acknowledge that they have the choice about which resources they will utilize.

+ - Consult and Document

Connecting a student to resources is only the first step in what can be a lengthy process. You may not see an immediate change or receive updates, but the University does take student well-being seriously and will follow up with the student directly.

As campus resources connect with the student, they will not provide updates to you. You may not see immediate changes in the student, as this is a process. Therefore, stay in touch with the student in a non-intrusive way. Document your interactions with distressed students, perhaps with a follow-up email to the student, and consult with your supervisor.

Scope of Campus Services

Learn more about campus services and referral processes to assist students with physical and mental health concerns.

Late Withdrawal Petition Process

Learn more about the late withdrawal petition process through the Dean of Students Office for students experiencing significant personal, medical, or family difficulties.

Concerned about a student?

Fill out the form linked below to help us identify students of concern.

Student Concern
Informational Report »

Is this an emergency?

If you are dealing with a life-threatening emergency, call 911 immediately or directly call one of the following offices on campus:

Public Safety 
(714) 997-6763
(all calls after regular business hours and on the weekends should be directed to Public Safety) 

Dean of Students Office
(714) 997-6721 
(regular business hours)

Residence Life and First Year Experience
(714) 997-6603  
(regular business hours)