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Identifying Students in Distress and Crisis

Demonstrating empathy and willingness to support a friend or student is an important part of building our strong community. Around campus—in residence and dining halls, classrooms, and groups—faculty, staff, and students may witness early signs of distress in others. Students often seek initial assistance from other students, faculty, and staff because they perceive them to be available and willing to listen.

Individuals dealing with personal issues or problems tend to show signs that they are struggling in some way.  Many students may experience low mood or anxiety. However, when symptoms of distress are persistent over a long period of time or when they interfere with academic responsibilities and social relationships, it may be a cause for concern. Following is a list of signs that may indicate that a student is struggling:

What is a Crisis?

A crisis is a situation in which an individual’s usual style of coping is no longer effective, and their emotional or physiological responses begin to escalate. As emotions intensify, coping becomes less effective, until the person can become disoriented, nonfunctional, or attempt harm. If a student is in a serious mental health crisis, you might see or hear the following:

  • Suicidal statements, planning, or suicide attempts
  • Written or verbal violence, or acting out violently
  • Destruction of property or other criminal acts
  • Extreme anxiety resulting in inability to speak or breathe
  • Inability to communicate (e.g., garbled or slurred speech, disjointed thoughts)
  • Loss of contact with reality (e.g., seeing or hearing things that aren’t there, expressing beliefs or actions at odds with reality)

Harvard University Police Department

HUPD Emergency 617-495-1212

Business: 617-495-1215

Longwood Substation: 617-432-1212

Contact Form

24-Hour Urgent Care Consultation

  (617) 495-2042


Office of Sexual Assault Prevention & Response

Smith Campus Center (617)496-5636

Counseling and Mental Health Services

Smith Campus Center
4th Floor (617) 495-2042

Monday-Thursday, 8:00am-6:00pm
Friday, 8:00am-5:00pm *

Harvard Law School

Pound Hall (617) 495-4414

Longwood Medical Campus

Vanderbilt Hall & Kresge Building (617) 432-1370

TTY Information

7:45AM-5:30PM (800) 439-0183

Evenings, Weekends,
& Holidays (617) 495-1198