Dealing with students in crisis

As you get to know your students well, they may come to you with a multitude of concerns. This is usually because they trust you and respect your opinion and it is important that you be prepared for these types of situations so that you are able to help concerned students in the best way that you can. Some common concerns reported to TAs include:

  • Academic concerns that are course-related.
  • Financial crisis (OSAP, financial aid questions, etc.)
  • Concerns about particular professors.

Rarely, students bring concerns to your attention which are more serious, and some of which may require action on your part. The following list presents crisis situations that have been reported to TAs on our campus in the past 5 years:

  • Eating disorders.
  • Mental health concerns.
  • Sexual assault.
  • Harassment.
  • Crisis of faith.
  • Pregnancy.
  • Medical concerns.
  • Crisis of sexual identity (‘coming-out’ or questioning their sexual status).
  • Threat to self or others (‘suicide’ or suggesting they will harm someone else).

In these situations your fundamental job as a TA:

is to provide a safe place and safe objective information. You are not expected to counsel
students, nor should you. You are expected to provide students with phone numbers and contact information for various support services. In the case of a true crisis, where a student threatens harm to themselves or to others, you, as a member of this community, are obligated to call the relevant support service. You can contact London Health Crisis or the London Police by dialling 911. If you do not trust your own instincts, contact a faculty member that you trust and pass the concern on to a person with more experience. Please do not let a student in crisis leave your office with no information and no support.

You may wish to post a list of the resources and services available on campus in your office in plain view, should you or others need them. Feel free to print this list and circulate it to other TAs in your department.