Dakota State University students walking around campus

Preparation + opportunity = success

That's the DSU equation. We're a four-year university with nationally recognized programs, cutting-edge facilities, and the brightest thinkers. But we're also a tight-knit, inclusive community. Small class sizes mean hands-on training and individualized attention. All this with an affordable, public school price that's among the best values in the region.

Majors & Degrees

Assisting Students in Distress

A guide for DSU faculty, staff, and peers to recognize, respond and refer a student in need of assistance.

Recognize Respond Refer Resources

As a member of the DSU Community, you may find yourself in a position to observe and recognize changes which signal psychological distress in students. Students often seek out faculty, staff, and peers that they see frequently to share their distress. Or you may even note concerning behavior yourself in observing individuals. However, to be able to identify students in distress or warning signs, having some guidelines for dealing with the situation can be helpful—and being aware of appropriate referral resources that can be of assistance to you will allow you to be more in control of the situation.


  • Sudden decline in academic performance
  • Frequently missing classes or assignments
  • Disturbing content in writing or presentations
  • Monopolizing class discussion
  • Disrupting class (e.g., yelling or cursing)
  • Confrontations with peers or instructor
  • Repeated requests for special consideration (e.g., deadline extensions, changes in requirements, grade changes)

  • Increased illness
  • Marked changes in physical appearance (e.g., poor hygiene, sudden weight gain/loss)
  • Uncharacteristic behavior indicating loss of contact with reality
  • Visibly intoxicated or smelling of alcohol or cannabis
  • Rapid speech or excessively anxious or erratic behavior
  • Excessive fatigue or sleeping in class
  • Observable signs of injury (e.g., facial bruising or cuts)

  • Self-disclosure of family problems, financial difficulties, or other personal distress
  • Unusual or disproportionate emotional response to situations
  • Excessive tearfulness
  • Panic reactions
  • Uncharacteristically troubled, confused, anxious, irritable, sad, hopeless
  • Peers expressing concern for student

  • Verbal, written, or implied intent to harm self or others
  • Unprovoked anger, hostility, or physical violence (e.g., shoving, grabbing, assaulting, use of weapon)
  • Academic assignments dominated by themes of extreme hopelessness, helplessness, isolation, rage, despair, violence, self-injury
  • Stalking or harassing
  • Reckless, disorderly, or dangerous conduct
  • Making threats or disturbing comments via email, text, phone calls


Use the following to determine the most appropriate response to a student in distress.

As yourself: Is the individual a danger to self or others? Does the individual need immediate assistance?

Yes, Imminent Danger The student’s conduct is clearly and/or imminently reckless, disorderly, dangerous, or threatening including self-harm behavior.

Call 911 or 988 (National Suicide Helpline)

Report the concern


Not Sure The student shows signs of distress, but I am unsure how serious it is. My interaction left me feeling uneasy/concerned for the student.

During business hours:
Call the Counseling Center to help student schedule an appointment (605-256-5121) or walk the student to our office in the Learning Engagement Center.

After-hours and Holidays
Call 988 and email counseling.center@dsu.edu


No I am not concerned for the student’s immediate safety, but the individual is having significant academic or personal issues and could use support.

During or after business hours:
Help the student request or self-schedule an appointment online via Trojan Connect or walk the student to our office in the Learning Engagement Center.

Refer students to Campus Resources.


Help individuals in distress access a support network with these referral tips and resources.

Use active listening

Make eye contact and give your full attention. Restate what the individual says to make sure you understand what is causing their distress.

Clarify your role

Be frank with the individual about your expertise and role. Frame any decision to seek and accept help as an intelligent and wise choice. Emphasize that asking for help is a sign of strength. Respect an individual’s privacy and autonomy without the false promises of confidentiality.

Ask direct questions

Don’t be afraid to directly ask the individual if they are having thoughts of harming themselves or others. By asking, you are NOT instilling the thought.

Give concrete help

Offer to help the individual contact the Counseling Center or walk them to the Counseling Center to schedule an appointment.

Inform your supervisor

Make sure to alert your supervisor/chair about your interaction.

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) permits communication about a student of concern in connection with a health and safety emergency.

Mandatory reporting requirements

If a student discloses an incident of sexual or gender-based harassment or assault, it must promptly be reported to the Title IX Coordinator at DSU-TitleIX@dsu.edu.


Got something on your mind? Need a little extra support? We know adjusting to university life can be stressful. Meeting new people, figuring out where you fit in, wondering how you'll manage everything all at once... it's overwhelming. You'll be relieved to know that DSU also provides personal and confidential assistance on campus through our Counseling Center at no charge to the student. Whether you dealt with emotional difficulties before coming here or they have started to affect you now, we are here to provide support. Our experienced and qualified counseling staff can help.

(605) 256-5121

Counseling Center

Disability Services provides assistance for students with a wide range of disabilities. To receive accommodations, students must contact the office and provide documentation of the disability. The coordinator will work with students to set up an appointment to discuss services that can be provided to enhance the learning experiences at DSU. Some of the accommodations Disability Services can provide include Alternative text formats, Sign language interpreters, Assistive technology, Alternative accommodations for exams (for example: testing in a distraction-reduced environment or providing readers for exams), Extended time for testing, and more. Disability Services respects all privacy and treats all personal information with confidentiality. The office may release information to university faculty and staff when a “need to know” is established by Disability Services. The need to know must be based on compelling and legitimate educational reasons for the information disclosure.

(605) 256-5121

Disability Services

Wellness is about the whole you: happy, healthy, and able to make the most of your DSU experience. You'll have access to a dedicated Student Health Office, nearby urgent/after-hours and emergency care, and an on-campus fitness center.

(605) 270-7678

Student Health

The Trojan Pantry supports students with food insecurity.


Thank you for your service.

As a military or veteran student, we know you have certain educational benefits available to you. We can help explain how they might apply to your DSU degree.

(605) 256-5742

Military Admissions

More than 90 students from over 25 countries bring their experiences, talents, and individual perspectives to create a rich, diverse community at DSU, both in and out of the classroom.

(605) 256-5267

International Admissions

As a DSU student, you are preparing for a rewarding career every day. But the market-ready skills you learn in the classroom are just part of the equation. Career & Professional Development (CPD) is a partner through every step of your educational journey.

(605) 256-5122

Career & Professional Development

Student activities are an essential part of the college experience.  Through involvement in various clubs and organizations, Trojans may complement their academic studies while meeting new friends and gaining valuable experience.  Student Engagement and Leadership serves as the center for information on student senate, campus clubs and organizations. To get involved with one of these groups, visit.

Student Clubs & Organizations

Whether you live in a residence hall or commute to your classes, DSU is your home away from home. That's why we prioritize a small, safe, and friendly campus.

Campus Safety & Security

Dakota State Residence Life provides more than a bed, we provide a place to grow, learn, explore and connect with other students from all walks of life. From first-year traditional residence halls to upper-class apartment living, Residence Life has a place for you to call home. 

(605) 256-5146

Student Life - Housing

Crisis or emergency

911 and 988