Supporting Students in Distress Guidelines

For Teaching Assistants and the University of Toronto

Table of Contents

1.0 About

2.0 Your Role As a Teaching Assistant at the University of Toronto

3.0 A Dual Continuum: Understanding Mental Health and Distress

4.0 Flourishing and Languishing: The Dual Continuum

5.0 Understanding Distress

6.0 Guidelines on How to Observe, Engage and Refer Students in Distress

     6.1 Observe: How to Observe and Recognize that a Student is in distress

          6.1.1 Emergency Indicators

          6.1.2 Students who are verbally aggressive and potentially violent

          6.1.3 What you can do in an escalating situation

     6.2 Engage: How to Engage a Student in Distress

          6.2.1 Two Options for Responding

          6.2.2 Preparing for and talking with a students

          6.2.3 General Considerations for Talking to Students

     6.3 Refer: How to Refer a Student in Distress

          6.3.1 Listen, validate non-judgmentally and encourage healthy coping

          6.3.2 Offer hope

          6.3.3 Provide advice and suggestions

          6.3.4 Quick Reference Guide

          6.3.5 Things to keep in mind when referring a student

7.0 Safety & Self-Care

     7.1 Safety

     7.2 Self-Care

8.0 Resources: On-Campus Resources: UTSG, UTM, UTSC & Community Resources

     8.1 UTSG Resources

     8.2 UTM Resources

     8.3 UTSC Resources

     8.4 Community Resources

9.0 Reference List

 

1.0 About

Contributors:
Michal Kasprzak, Alli Diskin, Bethany Osborne, Elliot Storm, and Lauren Norman. Special thanks goes to Judy Vorderbrugge, Community Health Coordinator for Health Promotional Programs, Health & Wellness, University of Toronto, for her invaluable ideas, advice, and comments during the development of this resource. She developed a general framework for this resource, especially the guidelines for referral. We are equally thankful and indebted to Lucy Fromowitz, Assistant Vicep President and her team at Student Life for insightful and critical observations and suggestions on several drafts of this document.

Purpose:
This guide was developed by the Teaching Assistants’ Training Program in response to the University of Torontop wide effort to promote mental health. It is based on the systemic approach proposed in the University’s Report of the Provostial Advisory Committee on Student Mental Health (2014). It aims to provide clear and comprehensive guidelines to respond effectively to students experiencing distress.

Target Users:
This guide targets Teaching Assistants who are frontp line teaching staff and may encounter students experiencing distress in their work. Developed as a reference tool and manual, it contains authentic scenarios and examples to guide TAs through the entire process of assisting students in distress and to respond effectively to the difficulties and challenges of these complex situations.

Navigating the Guide:
The guide is divided into three parts. The first section offers a brief explanation of mental health and its framework at the University of Toronto. The second part—the bulk of this guide—explains the guidelines on how to observe, engage and refer students in distress. It guides TAs on what to look for, what to say and what to do when assisting students, all while ensuring their own safety and care. It includes a twop page quick reference guide on responding to different types of situations. The third section lists various services and resources offered at each of the three campuses—St. George, UTSC and UTM—in areas of safety, health, and academic support. It also outlines numerous resources in the community (at city and provincial levels).