Helping a Student In Distress

Thank you for being here. You have come to the right place if you feel a student may be experiencing distress or a crisis and want to offer help. Yale has a plethora of resources; our hope is that this page offers guidance as you navigate this process.

For Urgent Matters For Non-Urgent Matters

How do I know if a student is in distress or a crisis and how can I be of help?

Students can encounter stress for various reasons – increased responsibility, not putting time aside for adequate self-care, academic and social pressures, lack of sleep, etc. Some of these stressors can become overwhelming and hard to manage, in turn posing a serious threat to a student’s overall functioning. The expression of interest and concern from a faculty or staff member can be a critical factor in helping a struggling student reestablish themselves.

We created BIRCH; five simple steps community members can follow to help a student who may be experiencing distress and crisis.

Be aware: Stay engaged with the intention of being mindful of how someone is feeling.
Intuition: Follow your intuition, if someone seems ‘off’ and not themselves, you are most likely right and further exploration with that person is warranted.
Reach out: Do not hesitate to reach out and ask the person how they are doing. Open-ended questions are generally best – ‘How are you?’ How are classes?’ ‘Are you feeling prepared for that exam?’
Connect: If you feel the person needs additional support suggest connecting them to a resource at Yale such as Yale’s Mental Health and Counseling or Yale Health Acute Care.
Here: Reassure the person you are here for them even after you connect them to a resource.

If a student is feeling distressed don’t feel obligated to handle the situation alone.
You can gauge the persons sense of safety by asking some of the following questions: 

- Are you feeling safe? 
- Do you have people in your life who you feel comfortable talking to? 
- Are there things you enjoy doing that help you feel better? 
- What are your plans for today/tomorrow?  


Warning Signs – Feelings and Words

  • Hopelessness  
  • Unexpected rage  
  • Sadness  
  • Extreme calm following depressive signs   
  • Joking about death, dying, harm  
  • Suicidal ideation

Warning Signs - Behaviors 

  • Isolation
    - Limited social support  
  • Not attending to Activities of Daily Living (ADL’s)
    - Sleep, eating, personal hygiene   
  • Not engaging in hobbies/activities   
  • Increase in substance use 
  • Self-injurious behaviors  

Other things to look for

  • Changes in academic performance
  • Changes in class attendance and group participation
  • Social withdrawal
  • Requesting special accommodations (submitting work late, postponing an exam)
State and federal laws and University policies mandate reporting in many crisis situations. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) allows faculty and staff to report student health and safety concerns to relevant campus officers who are trained to handle situations with sensitivity and care. Taking appropriate action does not violate a student’s privacy.

Urgent Matters

Life threatening emergencies call 911

Yale Acute Care 203-432-0123 (24/7, 365 days per year)

Yale Mental Health and Counseling 203-432-0290 (8:30am-5:00pm, M-F)

Yale Police 203-432-4400

Yale’s Sexual Harassment and Assault Response and Education Center (SHARE) 203-432-2000 (24/7, 365 days per year)

Mental health and counseling:
For urgent concerns after hours, any student can ask to speak to the on-call clinician, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year by calling 203-432-0290
Medication Consultations and Management at Mental Health and Counseling 
Psychiatrists are available if medication is part of your treatment. They provide consultations and on-going medication management. This may be in conjunction with individual therapy, group therapy, or on its own.

Yale Health Mental Health & Counseling provides free, confidential mental health treatment to members of the Yale student community. They offer a wide range of services including individual therapy. During your first visit you will have the chance to speak to one of their clinicians about your main concerns, your history and your goals for treatment. After discussing your preferences and your treatment options, the two of you will make a plan to begin treatment at Mental Health & Counseling.

Non-Urgent Matters

Stefany Battista
Stefany is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and embedded therapist at YSE. Her approaches include strength-based, problem solving, crisis interventions and narrative therapy. Schedule an appointment with Stefany or email her directly at

Andrés Fernández
Andrés Fernández is the Assistant Dean of Student Affairs at YSE and Deputy Title IX Coordinator. Andrés’ work with students comes from a place of great care, empathy and compassion. If you have concerns about a student, please email Andrés at

Lauren Horner
Lauren Horner is the Assistant Director of Student Affairs at YSE and Deputy Title IX Coordinator. Lauren works alongside Andrés and Stefany to help students in distress. If you have concerns about a student and are unable to connect with Andrés and Stefany, please email Lauren at

Group Therapy at Yale Mental Health and Counseling
Group therapy is a type of counseling in which a small group of people meet weekly to discuss their concerns and problems.  A therapist leads the group by helping to facilitate these conversations.  Group members use feedback from others in the group to develop new perspectives and reflect on their experiences.  Some groups offer concrete skills and strategies while others are less structured in nature. If you are interested in joining a group, please call 203-432-0290 and schedule an initial appointment in our department. If you already see a clinician in Mental Health & Counseling, you do not need to schedule a separate appointment. Your current clinician can answer your questions and refer you to a group if appropriate.

Chaplain’s Office
Chaplains from a variety of religious and spiritual traditions are available for confidential support and care. Students often talk to chaplains about grief, adjusting to graduate school, building and maintaining relationships, vocation, and more. You do not need to identify as religious/spiritual to speak with a chaplain. Call 203.432.1128 to make an appointment or feel free to reach out to any of the chaplains by email. You can also sign up directly to Chat with a Chaplain here. Chaplains are available Monday – Friday from 9am – 5pm.

Slifka Center
The Slifka Center supports students with resources they need to thrive in college. Students from all faiths and backgrounds are welcome and can meet one-on-one with staff.

The Good Life Center
The Good Life Center is the official student wellness center of Yale University, offering space for wellness-related meetups, peer-to-peer support The Center seeks to empower students with evidence-based skills for fostering mental, physical, social and emotional well-being.

Connect to Care (C2C)
We know mental health and wellness is important to you. There are a number of resources in the Yale ecosystem available to you. Connect to Care (C2C) is a new tool that can help you: (1) Self-reflect on whether you are satisfied with your current mental wellness, (2) Orient yourself to all the resources available, and (3) Find resources and next steps that might fit your needs best. Want to find a drop-in meditation session? Talk to a health coach? Join virtual group therapy? Check out C2C.
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