Distressed Students

Definition: Behaviors that threaten to harm self or others, psychosis, or becoming extremely withdrawn or depressed. These are severe mental health issues that often constitute urgent or emergent situations.


  • Suicidal or homicidal statements (particularly those that indicate a specific plan and/or access to means)
  • Making threats of physical violence
  • Delusional thinking – paranoia, unjustified belief that others are watching them or persecuting them
  • Experiencing hallucinations, disorientation – hearing voices, unable to tell what is real
  • Indications of a drug overdose
  • Cutting or other self-injurious behavior
  • Stalking
  • Reports of sexual assault
  • Carrying a firearm or other weapon to class


  • Talk to the student
  • Acknowledge how they are feeling
  • Listen
  • Offer sympathy/empathy/support
  • If you are unsure how serious the situation is – ask, including suicidal thoughts
  • Encourage help-seeking
  • Normalize and contextualize the experience
  • Consult with MSU Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS), call (517) 355-8270.