Here's How to Help

At De Anza College, we believe that no one should struggle alone. Faculty members and classified professionals are in a unique position to help students who are in crisis.

Below you'll find a basic protocol for determining how to proceed when faced with a distressed or disruptive student. In addition, this webpage has useful tips for determining when students may be in need, and how to help them. Resources on this page include

Basic Response Protocol

In most cases, an appropriate response can be determined by asking yourself this question:

"Is the student a danger to self or others, or does the student need immediate assistance for any reason?"

Your answer will help you determine how to proceed.

  • Yes

    The student's conduct is clearly and imminently reckless, disorderly, dangerous or threatening. (This may include self-harm or a medical emergency.)

    • Response: Call 911 or Campus Police at 408.924.8000

  • Not Sure

    The student shows signs of distress. You're not sure how serious it is, but your interaction has left you feeling uneasy or concerned.

  • No

    You're not concerned about an immediate threat to safety, but the student is having personal or academic issues and could use more support or resources.

Overview: Warning Signs

Possible Signs of Crisis

  • Drastic change in academic performance, behavior, cognitive functioning, personality, weight, hygiene, energy level or habits
  • Social isolation
  • Mood swings, depression or agitation
  • Misuse of drugs or alcohol
  • Threats of harm to self or others
  • Acts of aggression or disruptive behavior
  • Exaggerated emotional response that is obviously inappropriate to the situation

What You Can Do

  • Take threats seriously
  • Educate yourself about how to assist students in crisis
  • Learn about campus resources
  • Speak to the student about your concern
  • Share your concerns with your department leadership, the dean of Student Development or the Title IX coordinator
  • When in doubt, consult with others

What Is Your Role? 

Emotions and stress levels can run high at certain times during the academic year. However, if you notice a student acting out of character, you may be able to serve as a helpful resource. Your expression of interest and concern may be a critical factor in helping the student re-establish an emotional connection with family and friends. You may also alert our college staff to ensure a timely and appropriate intervention.

Disruptive Behavior

Disruptive student behavior may include actions that

  • Interfere with other students, faculty or staff members
  • Threaten the safety of the community
  • Create an inappropriate academic or work environment.  

Examples may include

  • Threats of physical harm 
  • Yelling or screaming
  • Persistent and unreasonable demands for time and attention
  • Words or actions that intimidate or harass another
  • Words or actions that cause others to fear for their personal safety

How to respond

Don’t ignore disruptive behavior. Remain calm. Remind yourself that this is not about you; it’s about the situation. Tell the individual that there are consequences for failing to improve their disruptive behavior. If possible, have someone else with you. 


Disruptive behavior should be documented. Write a factual, detailed account of what occurred. Use concrete terms. Share the documentation. 

De-Escalation Tips


  • Be empathetic and nonjudgmental. Remember that whatever a person is experiencing might be the most vital thing in her or his life. 
  • Respect personal space. Permitting personal space tends to diminish a person’s uneasiness. 
  • Use nonthreatening “nonverbals.” Be aware of your movements, facial expressions and manner of speaking. 
  • Avoid overreacting. You can’t control someone else’s conduct, but your reaction will directly affect the outcome of the situation. 
  • Focus on feelings. Watch and listen deliberately for the person’s genuine message. 
  • Ignore challenging questions. Disregard the challenge, not the person. Focus on how you can cooperate to take care of the issue. 
  • Set limits. Be clear and offer positivity first. 
  • Choose wisely what you insist upon. Be considerate in choosing which rules are debatable and which are not.
  • Allow silence for reflection. It can allow a person to consider what’s occurring and how they need to advance. 
  • Allow time for decisions. Stress rises when people feel pressured. Allowing time brings ease.

Expert Resources

On Campus:

Off Campus

  • 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline ( Connect with a trained counselor at a 24-hour crisis center in this area, by Calling 988 or 800.273.TALK (8255), Texting 988, or Chatting at (formerly known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline).
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline ( Connect with a live advocate by Calling 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), Texting START to 88788, or Chatting through their website.
  • Crisis Text Line ( Connect with a Crisis Counselor 24/7 by Texting HOME to 741741 or Chatting at
  • Santa Clara County Suicide Prevention & Crisis Hotline ( Connect with a Crisis Counselor by Calling 988 or 855.278.4204 or Texting RENEW to 741741.
  • YWCA Golden State Silicon Valley ( Connect with 24-hour crisis assistance and counseling services at 800.572.2782

Do's and Don'ts

  • Do

    • Speak with the student privately if possible
    • Allow the person to vent and tell you what is upsetting them; acknowledge their feelings
    • Let the student know you are concerned about their welfare. Express your concern by describing changes you have observed in nonjudgmental terms
    • Set limits. Explain clearly and directly what behaviors are acceptable: “I’m willing to speak with you as soon as you lower your voice.”
    • Be assertive, fair, consistent, and honest
    • Focus on what you can do to help resolve the situation
    • Take threats seriously
    • Suggest resources; help the student explore options
    • Point out that seeking help is a sign of strength and courage, rather than weakness or failure
    • Consult with others about your concerns
    • Make personal referrals. Give the name of an individual when possible. Call ahead to brief that person or offer to accompany the student if you're able to do so
    • Document the exchange and report it to the dean of Student Development
    • Follow up with the student about your referral

  • Don't

    • Don’t ignore the unusual behavior
    • Don’t minimize the situation
    • Don’t get into an argument or shouting match
    • Don’t judge or criticize
    • Don’t blame, ridicule or use sarcasm
    • Don’t make physical contact
    • Don’t ignore your own limitations
    • Don’t make the problem your own
    • Don’t promise confidentiality
    • Don’t involve yourself beyond the limits of your time, skill or job duties

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