Important message for faculty & staff about student mental health

Dear Colleagues,

As you may know, suicide is the second-leading cause of death among college students. During this week, National Mental Health Awareness Week, we’d like to take the opportunity to remind you about your important role in keeping our community safe. In your role, you may be the first to observe behavior that indicates that a student needs additional mental health support. Such signs include:

  • Marked change in academic performance: absences, poor performance, or lack of class participation
  • Unusual behavior: isolation, problems with friends or family members, exaggerated emotional responses
  • Changes in appearance: dramatic weight loss or gain or poor personal hygiene
  • Talking or writing about death or suicide
  • Recent situations such as losses, legal issues, substance abuse or academic difficulties

If you’re ever concerned about the state of mind of a student who seems particularly depressed or withdrawn, you can call University Health Services (UHS) or the Division of Student Life.

At UHS, the Counseling and Consultation Services are available both to students and to staff who are concerned about students. During business hours, call (608) 265-5600 (select option 2). UHS also has 24-hour mental health crisis intervention services are available 365 days a year at (608)265-5600 (select option 9). You can also speak to a Dean on Call about any concerns you have by calling the Division of Student Life at (608) 263-5700.

The most critical factors in approaching anyone for whom you have concern are genuine concern, caring and trustworthiness. One of the greatest myths about suicide is that asking if someone is thinking about ending their life will make it more likely. Just the opposite is true: Those who are asked describe feeling relieved and are less likely to act on their suicidal thoughts. We recommend approaching the person in private, conveying your concern, not judgments, and providing hope.

Thank you for doing your part as a member of the UW community.

Lori M. Berquam
Dean of Students

Sarah Van Orman, MD
Executive Director, University Health Services (UHS)

Danielle Oakley, PhD
Director, UHS Counseling and Consultation Services