How Faculty & Staff Can Help Students

Make an Impact In Your Role

Staff and instructors can play a crucial role in suicide prevention and promote help-seeking behaviors among their students. 

If you're concerned about a student's well-being, you can complete an Online Referral Form or call the Dean of Students office at 520-621-7057. 

You can help prevent suicide in your role.

Create A Culture of Care

Talking about mental health, self-care, coping skills, and resources decreases stigma and makes mental health support more accessible.

Syllabus & Policies

Honor the Whole Student

Acknowledge that your students are human and have mental health that’s influenced by life outside of the classroom. Check in periodically throughout the semester. 

Continue to Adapt

Think flexibility and pacing when setting test dates, attendance policies, and dates or classroom policies. 

Highlight Resources

Include extra UA resources in your syllabus that support a variety of student needs.

Counselor Tip: Include a mental health statement on your syllabus. Here's an example: 

As a student, you are experiencing new things, figuring out who you are, and balancing many roles and responsibilities. Sometimes, those can come with high levels of stress, strained relationships, anxiety, depression, alcohol/drug problems, feeling overwhelmed, or loss of motivation. Counseling and Psych Services (CAPS) is a campus resource to help you navigate these challenges.  They have groups, workshops, brief counseling and psychiatry, self-help tools, and specialty services to support you. You can call CAPS 24/7 at 520-621-3334 or visit  

Additional mental health resources:  

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK  
  • Crisis Text Line: text TALK to 741-741 
group of students talking

Classroom Culture 

When we think back to memorable classes, what we remember is how we felt in the class. Your class can be about so much more than the subject matter. To infuse mental health into your classroom, explore the ideas and ask yourself, “How could this work for my class?” Use these as a starting point.  

Spread the Word

Share about upcoming suicide prevention trainings on campus. 

Bring Wellness into Your Classroom

Invite Campus Health/CAPS to speak to your class. We have a range of health topics from alcohol and mental health to nutrition and suicide prevention. 

Infuse Mental Health

The conversation about mental health shouldn't stop at the classroom door or Zoom waiting room. Incorporate mental health (gratitude, emotions, facts, statistics, coping skills) into the examples, practice problems, or projects in your class.

Set The Tone

  • Start class with music, a funny quote, deep quote, comic, guided meditation, social media graphic from AFSP
  • In the middle of class, take a stretch break, breath, move your body, check-in, “How’s everyone feeling? What do you need right now?” 
  • At the end of class, take the temperature of your classroom with a quick survey of how your students are understanding the material and feeling overall. 
  • During high-stress times, create a simple tradition that could include breathing exercises, positive affirmation, laughter, or movement.  

Daring Classrooms Hub - Brené Brown


Show Your Personality

Showing your students that you’re more than a professor makes you more approachable.  

  • Tell a personal story related to the content. 
  • Use your hobbies and interests in classroom examples. 
  • Tell a joke. 
  • Share how you manage stress.  

Connect Students With Each Other

Connections and belonging are suicide prevention tools, and they make class a whole lot more fun.

  • What are low-stakes/non-graded ways students can work together more in one-on-one or small group settings?
  • How could you facilitate a welcoming and collaborative discussion in class? 

Connect With Your Students 1-1

Connecting with students makes them feel welcome and increases their likelihood of reaching out to you. 

  • Walk around and check-in one-on-one 
  • Learn their names (if you can) 
  • Use correct names/pronouns if you can 
  • Encourage office hours to chat – school-related or not

Suicide Signs and Risk Factors to Watch For 

  • Self-isolation (withdrawing from family, friends, and regular activities) 
  • Sudden, significant drop in grades or performance at work 
  • Abrupt or dramatic change in mood 
  • Talking about suicide 
  • Frequent falling asleep in class 
  • Sudden, significant drop in grades 
  • Frequent absences from class  
  • Self-isolation 
  • Dramatic change in appearance, behavior, or engagement in class 
  • Work, projects, assignments around themes of helplessness, hopelessness, death, being a burden 

Any direct reference to mental health struggles. Here’s what you might hear:

  • I just want to die.
  • I just can't do this anymore.
  • I'm such a burden.
  • Life isn't worth anything. 
  • I won't be around to deal with that. 
  • If he/she breaks up with me, I can't/won't go on. 
  • There is nothing I can do to make it better. 
  • My family would be better off without me. 
  • I feel there is no way out. 
  • It's hopeless/pointless/useless. 
  • I have no reason to live. 

It can be hard for people to come out and talk about mental health struggles or thoughts of suicide. Here’s what you might hear instead: 

  • I’m having a hard time 
  • I have a lot on my plate right now 
  • I can't stand the pressure anymore. 
  • What's the point/it’s pointless 
  • I’m feeling really overwhelmed 
  • I wish I could just get a break from it all/just go to sleep forever/run away 
  • “I should just kill myself,” said in a joking tone 
Any of these behaviors, expressions, or phrases need to be followed up on. Here's how:

Respond with CARE

C: Connect

Connect with a student one-on-one when you notice these signs.

A: Actively Listen

Practice active listening during this conversation.

R: Respond With Compassion

Respond with compassion and if you have any thoughts about the person’s well-being or safety, ask: “Are you thinking of suicide?” 

E: Encourage Help

Encourage help and suggest resources.

How to CARE

It’s always a good idea to check in. Do this when you’re first concerned about a student. 

Setting: try to invite the student for one-on-one conversation, whether that’s after class, during office hours, etc. 

Tone: casual, concerned, open, curious 

Phrases that can help:  

  • “I’ve noticed...” Give examples of what you’ve noticed like “You’ve missed a lot of class lately, you’re falling asleep in class, your last few exams have gone differently.” 
  • “I’m concerned about...” refer to the specific statement, behavior 
  • Give them the option to talk, “Is this something you want to talk about?” 
  • If not, gently let them know that there are lots of kinds of mental support if they want, including CAPS


  • Stay calm, curious, and compassionate 
  • Listen with empathy without trying to fix the problem
  • Ask how, when, what questions (how did that happen, when did you start feeling that way, what’s important about this to you) or simply say, “Tell me more.” 
  • Paraphrase what they’re saying 


  • Trying to fix the situation or jump in with a solution 
  • Platitudes, “at least” “you have so much to live for” “everything will be okay”  
  • Judgment of what they’re saying and their experience 
  • A big reaction 
  • Why questions, especially those that suggest the feelings aren’t valid like “Why is this bothering you?” or “Why are you so sensitive about that?” 


When someone shares something difficult or vulnerable, acknowledge that. Tell them something like, “Thank you so much for sharing this with me, I know that was probably hard to do.” This can make a big difference in how seen, heard, and validated someone feels. 

If the thought enters your mind at all that they may be suicidal, having suicidal thoughts, or at risk for suicide, ask them: “Are you thinking about suicide?”  

This is probably the part of the conversation that will be most uncomfortable to you. Don’t let that stop you. Ask anyway because this is also one of the most important parts of this conversation.  

Counselor tip: Practice saying, “Are you thinking about suicide?” out loud. Choose a colleague to roleplay with and take turns asking the question.   

Sometimes we think we know what’s best for someone, but most of the time we don’t. Ask your student how you can support them. Try questions like: 

  • Do you want me to listen?  
  • Are you looking for feedback or solutions? 

Whatever someone’s going through, you don’t have to help them through it alone. Encourage them to get support, whether that’s from their family, friends, a mental health professional, suicide prevention resources, etc.  

Counselor tip: Offer to go with them, ask who is a supportive person in their life that could go with them, schedule a time to follow up and check in on how it went. 

Counselor Tip: CARE looks different over email because its asynchronous, but all of the concepts still remain. Read as if you are actively listening. Respond with compassion. Bring up concrete examples of your concerns. The goal of the email will likely be to set up a one-on-conversation. Use the templates below as a guide.

person using a laptop

Contacting a student you're concerned about:

Dear Student,  

I hope you are well today.  I’ve noticed … [insert specific examples or observations], and I wanted to check in and see how you’re doing. If you're facing obstacles or barriers in my class, I'm here to help. You can reply to this email or come to my office hours so we can check in and make a plan going forward.  Sometimes when a lot's going on, we need some extra support. If you want to talk about resources on campus, just let me know. CAPS is also a great place for lots of mental health tools, resources, and support.


Professor X 

You received this email from a student:

Hi professor X,  

I’m sorry I missed class and the surprise pop quiz. I have a lot on my plate right now and couldn’t be in class. Is there a way I can make this up? 



Respond with CARE :

Dear Student,  

Thank you for reaching out. It can definitely be hard to be a college student with so much on your plate. It sounds like a lot might be going on right now for you. As we discussed in the syllabus, (reference class policy). If you’d like to talk about this further, I’m always open to meet with you or any student to discuss their progress in class and any other questions or concerns they have. Sometimes when a lot's going on, we need some extra support. If you want to talk about resources on campus, just let me know. CAPS is also a great place for lots of mental health tools, resources, and support.


Professor X

Keep Learning

Free suicide prevention and mental health training for UArizona staff. 

Suicide Prevention Trainings

Suicide Prevention & Support Resources

We've collected lifelines, organizations, resources, guides, articles, online tools, and more so it's easier to help.

Suicide Prevention & Support Resources