Student Mental Health

At our October meeting, we heard from guest speaker Carla Davey, a Crisis Stabilization Specialist with University Health Services (UHS). She works primarily with students experiencing urgent mental health crises, often due to recent traumatic events like hate crimes or loss of a loved one, but she also visits classes and departments to disseminate information on coping with loss in academic communities and responding when others – especially students – need help coping.

This post provides a summary of the advice and resources Carla shared  with us at the meeting. Hard-copy information sheets are also available – type a quick message to the coordinators on the Contact page to get your hands on some.

Remember that college students… 

  • are sometimes dealing with emergent mental health issues rather than mental health issues they’ve experienced before.
  • are in the process of learning how to navigate conversations about mental health (e.g. what to disclose, to whom, how much detail to provide, where to find help).

Reporting Mental Health Crises

Carla has seen many different approaches to reporting mental health crises at different types of colleges and universities but highlighted the following options for UW-Madison, specifically:

  • If you are seriously concerned about a student’s mental wellbeing:
    • call the UHS 24-Hour Crisis Services or talk on-site to drop-in counselor and consult with them confidentially (no need to give student’s name) and they’ll provide you resources
      • this might help you determine what are the best next steps to take
    • provide UHS with the student’s name, and they’ll secure a confidential third-party point of contact that they will include in the student’s chart
      • this is still completely confidential and has no academic or social consequences for the student – it just provides someone who already or will someday work with that student information that will help ensure appropriate treatment
    • submit a “Student of Concern Report” through the Dean of Students office
      • if the situation calls for immediate response, the DoS will call UWPD and take the student to the hospital, but this is very rare
      • there are no procedures to disenroll students who have thoughts of suicide or of hurting someone else
        • there would have to be some kind of behavioral violation of the code of conduct to actually merit restricting a student from being on campus

Responding to Student Mental Health Concerns

Sometimes students will disclose their own concerns about their mental health and its impact on their academic, social, and familial lives. Carla encourages instructors to always respond as graciously and positively as possible:

Thank you for telling me, I’m sorry to hear that you’re struggling.

Do you have someone you can talk to about this?

Do you know about other campus resources, like UHS and the Dean of Students office?

Please take care of yourself, and we’ll keep working on your academics as you find some answers.

Students often fear telling TAs and professors about traumatic incidents – fear that they won’t get a response or that they’ll get a curt response. Responding graciously and offering / asking after other resources can really put students at ease.

It’s okay to acknowledge what is in your capacity as an instructor – like giving an extension on the student’s paper or offering to be a liaison between the student and the professor – and to acknowledge that other campus resources may be more useful in addressing other concerns.

Helping students know that they’re not alone can also be helpful. A significant number of students on campus face similar challenges every semester: 27% of students report having a sexual assault while they’re on campus, and 20% report depression and anxiety. For this reason UHS runs another program called Let’s Talk: 20-minute drop-in counseling sessions with no records involved.

Resources for TAs, too

All of these resources are confidential and available to grads:



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