Interacting with the student

Student Needs

  • Opportunities to discuss difficulties in private
  • Instructors who express genuine interest in the well-being of their students
  • Faculty members who are patient and understanding while maintaining high academic standards
  • Understanding that personal setbacks can trigger strong emotions because of other circumstances in the student’s life
  • Recognition that some students will find even the friendliest and most compassionate instructors to be intimidating
  • Maintaining limits when it comes to being a confidant, so as to avoid later feelings of embarrassment or conflict of interest


  • Explain the appropriate way to seek help from the instructor (including the level of formality in greetings), and be easily accessible.
  • Reach out to students who exhibit a sudden change in behaviour or grades.
  • Reach out to students who miss an exam or assignment, and acknowledge that they may be experiencing personal difficulties.  Point them to the appropriate resources.
  • Acknowledge that students who engage in frustrating behaviour (e.g. troubling in-class behaviour, or repeatedly missing deadlines) are not necessarily inconsiderate; they are frequently dealing with overwhelming problems.
  • Ensure that feedback on assignments is thoughtful of how it will be received.
  • When a student makes a personal disclosure, acknowledge the weight of the issue or concern and ask if they are accessing meaningful support.  Offer to help them find the support they need if they want it.  Explain that you want them to get the best help possible, and there are limits to what you can do.

More about the Mental Health by Design course.