Helping staff and faculty in distress

Everyone plays an important role in creating healthy and respectful work environments.

The following guidelines are meant to help you take the first steps in helping a colleague in distress.

See something step 1


Recognize visible changes in behaviour

If you see any behaviour that may be out of character or unusual for your colleagues, know that early intervention plays a key role in recovery from mental health challenges.
Reflect on any visible changes in behaviour that might be uncharacteristic:

  • What have I seen?
  • What have I heard from the individual?
  • How long have I noticed these behaviours?

say something step 2


Respond with concern and empathy

Often we may notice changes in behaviour, but are unsure how to approach a person having difficulties. Reaching out to a colleague shows care and concern, and opens a dialogue to check how they are doing. Think about the best way to approach your colleague about your concerns.

  • Am I the right person to have this conversation?
  • Have I chosen a discrete and appropriate time and environment for this conversation?
  • Do I need support from another colleague or supervisor?

Non-judgmental and supportive language includes:

“I have noticed…”
“I am concerned…”

It’s okay to be uncertain about how to respond. You don’t need to have all the answers. Being there to support your colleagues is often the most valuable thing that you can do.

Do something step 3


Refer your colleague to available resources

Staff and faculty may not be aware of the wide range of support services available to them, or may be hesitant to ask for help. Staff and faculty may not be aware of the wide range of support services available to them, or may be hesitant to ask for help. There are ways to connect your colleagues to resources, or to learn about them together.

Non-judgmental and supportive language includes:

“What do you need in order to…”
“Can I suggest…”
“UBC has a great resource to help with…”

Use the following to help you determine your next steps and the best resources to use or share:

Situations requiring immediate referral to emergency services:
quote 1

  • Behaviour that is violent, destructive, harmful, aggressive or threatening to self or others.

How to refer:

Call 911 and Campus Security
First, call Emergency Services: 911
Then, call Campus Security: 604-822-2222

Situations requiring a prompt referral to appropriate resources:
qhote 2

  • Changes in personal appearance and hygiene
  • Low mood or affect for several weeks
  • Avoidance (of students or colleagues)
  • Substance use concerns
  • Disorganized thinking or inability to communicate clearly
  • Increased interpersonal conflict and anger
  • Expressions of hopelessness or references to suicide
  • Recently may have been the victim of violence

How to refer:

First, encourage your colleague to contact their Employee and Family Assistance (EFAP) Program:
Morneau Shepell: 1-800-387-4765

  • Confidential
  • 24/7
  • Free

Then, suggest that they follow up with some of the additional resources listed below

Situations that may require a referral to appropriate resources:
quote 3

  • Family or relationship problems
  • Chronic health conditions
  • Difficulty concentrating or learning new tasks
  • Difficulty sleeping

How to refer:

Based on your role and your relationships in the workplace, following up may look different for each person.

For individuals

After you have had a conversation with your colleague, and if you feel that it’s appropriate, ask them if they would be okay with you checking back in with them soon. Take care of your own wellbeing. All of these resources are available to you as well. Check in with yourself and ensure that your personal and emotional needs are looked after.

Legal obligations and the duty to inquire

If you have observed concerning changes in behavior in the individuals you manage/supervise, you have a legal duty to inquire. Reach out and say something. If you need support when preparing for this conversation, contact Advisory Services or Faculty Relations for support in managing workplace-related health issues. Be sure to document your conversations.

Download the Orange folder

UBC-Assisting S&F in Distress.pdf

A printable guide for helping staff and faculty in distress

To order copies of the orange insert for assisting faculty and staff in distress, please email

Concerned about a student? Learn more about how to assist a student in distress.