Signs of Someone in Need of Help

Outlined on this page are signs to help you determine if someone is in need of mental help and support.

Changes in behaviour

  • Unusual patterns of behaviour
  • Avoidance of tasks or responsibilities
  • Withdrawing socially/verbally/emotionally
  • Neglecting self-care
  • Agitated or excessively demanding interaction with others
  • Excessive/uncharacteristic use of alcohol or other drugs
  • An increase in impulsive behaviour
  • Increased risk taking behaviour
  • Talking of suicide or violent acts towards self and/or others
  • Taking about plans/action toward suicidal intent or self harm

Signs of emotional distress

  • Being tearful
  • Sighing frequently
  • Appearing vague
  • Seeming confused
  • Experiencing high levels of anxiety or having panic attacks
  • Unpredictable expression of anger
  • Displaying agitation
  • Thoughts or speech patterns that seem pressured or race or seem odd
  • Sustained depressed mood
  • Sustained irritability
  • Frequent expressions of negativity
  • Concerned about someone who is showing emotional distress?Actively assist the person to contact one of the UNSW support services

Academic engagement

  • A marked change in concentration/academic/work place performance
  • Increased occasions of uncompleted academic tasks or neglect of personal responsibilities
  • Loss of motivation
  • Academic failure

Signs of physical health issues

  • Looking pale, perspiring excessively, having breathing difficulties
  • Fainting or loss of consciousness
  • Muscular spasms
  • Obvious intense pain, extreme fatigue
  • Complaining of sleep problems or falling asleep in unexpected circumstances
  • Regular episodes of illness, colds, flu etc
  • Concerned about someone who is showing physical distress? Advise about the University Health Service and/or check if they have a local GP. Encourage them to make an appointment.

UNSW Health Service

Phone: 9385 5425

How can you help?

Action steps in an emergency (i.e. immediate danger of harm)

  • Contact UNSW Security – where possible get someone else to make the call. This leaves you free to focus on the needs of the person who needs assistance.
  • Security Direct Emergency Number 9385 6666 (extension number 6666) or free call 1800 626 003
  • Try to make the person in distress safe. If possible keep them away from possible sources of harm such as: sharp objects, items that could be used as projectiles, windows, staircases, balconies, dangerous objects or chemicals.
  • Let someone else know your concerns about the student
  • Ask for backup support while you wait for Security personnel to arrive
  • Avoid leaving the distressed person alone – ask someone to stay with the person/student even if you only have to leave for a small period of time

Concerned about someone in the UNSW community

  • Spend some time with the student/person involved: listen and establish an understanding of the situation
  • be non-judgemental in your responses and attitude
  • explore knowledge of sources of information available to the person (UNSW services, community services, websites)
  • explore if some solutions have already been explored
  • encourage the person to seek professional/medical support
  • consider whether the person needs an immediate ACTIVE referral to UNSW services providing student support. See the Student Life and Learning website
  • demonstrate continuing interest and support
  • offer to take them to a support service
  • offer to call a support service on their behalf
  • you might consider offering to talk with them again and indicate that you have an interest in their well being.