What is a crisis?
In the past, a crisis was typically defined as any situation where human life may be at risk. As our society has grown more complex, the definition of a crisis is now much broader. Generally, a crisis is now known as not only a situation, but a state of being for anyone who perceives his or her problem as needing attention without delay.
As you might imagine, this leaves faculty and staff in the position of making judgment calls when dealing with students and peers. Because of this, it is vitally important to understand what a crisis or a person in crisis typically presents with. It is also important to know your own limits of expertise and to listen to your ‘gut’ when you feel that you may be in over head when working with someone.
You can assist people who you feel may be experiencing crisis and refer them to appropriate sources of help. The following information is meant to provide you with some guidance in this process.
What to look for
- Academic Indicators
- Deterioration in quality of work
- Missed assignments
- A drop in grades
- Repeated absences from work or classes
- A negative change in classroom or workplace performance
- Disorganized or erratic performance
- Continual seeking of special accommodations (late projects or papers, extensions, postponed examinations, extensive sick days, etc.)
- Unprovoked anger or hostility
- Excessive dependency
- Expressions of hopelessness or worthlessness
- Expressions of concern about a student in the class by his/her peers
- A hunch or gut-level reaction that something is wrong or feeling fearful for your own safety
- Direct statements indicating distress, family problems, or other difficulties
- Exaggerated personality traits (e.g., more withdrawn or more animated than usual)
- Deterioration in physical appearance
- Visible changes in weight
- Lack of personal hygiene
- Excessive fatigue
- Coming to work or class bleary-eyed, hung over, or smelling of alcohol
- Appearing sick or ill
- Any written note or verbal statement that has a sense of finality or a suicidal reference
- Statements to the effect that the person is “going away for a long time”
- Severe depression
- Any history of suicidal thoughts or attempts
- Giving away of prized possessions
- Self-injurious or self-destructive behaviours
- Any other behavior that seems out of control
- Essays, e-mails, projects or papers that focus on despair, suicide, or death
What you can do
In the event of an emergency or immediate safety risk, call 911 for fire, ambulance, and police assistance.
UFV Campus Security at ext. 7654 or 1-855-239-7654.
UFV Campus First Aid ext. 7770 or 1-855-282-7770.
During the hours 9:00am to 4:30pm you and/or the student may consult with a counsellor in Student Services.
- Abbotsford Campus, come to B214 or call 604 854-4528.
- Chilliwack CEP Campus, come to Building A, Room A1318 or call 604 795-2808.
Visit the UFV Safe Student Community website which:
- Provides information on student rights and responsibilities and behaviour expectations set by UFV
- Identifies behaviours that may be subject to intervention or discipline
- Provides links to relevant policies
- Illustrates the process to report allegations of disruptive behaviours
- Provides a mechanism to report such behaviours
- Provides contact information to a variety of student services that may be helpful
After hours support
Persons in crisis after 4:30 pm or on weekends may call the regional crisis line at 604 951-8855 or toll free 1-877-820-7444. This service is available 24 hours a day, every day.
Issues to consider
Avoid making sweeping promises of confidentiality, particularly if a person represents a safety risk to him- or herself or others. Students, faculty or staff who may be a danger to themselves or others need swift professional intervention, and assurances of absolute confidentiality may get in the way.
It is acceptable to stay “in role” as a peer or staff member. You do not have to take on the role of counsellor. Your responsibility is to listen, watch and refer.
How to respond
Listen. This will help the person to feel supported, and it will help you decide what should be done.
Decide if the student is in crisis. Ask them if you are not sure. If you feel that you are in over your head or if you are feeling uneasy or afraid, call for help. No professional will ever tell you that you shouldn’t have called for help; let someone with experience handle the situation.
Take the person seriously. No matter how trivial or unimportant the problem may seem to you, it is extremely important to the person “in crisis” and you need to take the problem seriously too.
Keep calm; even if what you are being told or see frightens or upsets you. The person in crisis needs a person who, upon seeing or hearing the problem, does not panic or reach the same emotional state as s/he is in. You must attempt to remain steady, calm, concerned and rational.
Stick with the person. Your physical presence, even if on the phone, and willingness to stay with them when they are vulnerable wil have a powerful mpact. Keep the person active-talking, walking, anything to keep the person involved in the problem and give you the opportunity to remain engaged with them while getting help.
Get Help. Do not try to handle the crisis alone. Always call for help: your Supervisor, a Counsellor, Campus Security, 911 or the Crisis Line.
Avoid interpretation. Crisis intervention is not the time for you to practice Lay Counselling or to attempt to help the person to solve the cause of the crisis.
Avoid arguing. You should not argue with the person about behaviours s/he may threaten. Doing so will just arouse anger and defensiveness.
Follow up. Your job is only done when the person in crisis is in the care of someone with professional knowledge and expertise. Even then, you will certainly see the person again on campus. Be friends, let them know that you are around if they need you, but don’t ask invasive questions. One person may feel embarrassed and not want to talk with you again, while another may feel very comfortable with you and may ask for help in other areas of their life. Be careful to stick within your own personal and professional boundaries here.
What if I'm in crisis?
As a member of the UFV faculty or staff, you may experience personal issues or a crisis of your own. The Employee and Family Assistance Program provides free, confidential counselling for employees and their dependents who are having problems at work or home.