What Can I Do? ALERT

Recognize, Respond, Refer

More Feet on the Ground is the first level of training for the University's Mental Health and Wellbeing Training. The Call to Action module provides concrete steps on how to Recognize, Respond and Refer when relating with a student experiencing emotional distress.

The ALERT Model

A.L.E.R.T. is an acronym that stands for:

  • Acknowledge
  • Listen
  • Engage
  • Refer
  • Talk

(2 column layout to reinforce acronym/simplify)


Acknowledge what the person is saying and feeling in a sensitive and compassionate way. Trust your instincts even if an individual denies that there is a difficulty. You can still let the person know that you are concerned, and that you want to help.


Listen to the individual in private when both of you have time. Allowing the person to talk without interruption, and offering your undivided attention, can help the person to feel cared about and more confident about what to do. Reflecting back what you believe the individual is saying can help him/her to feel heard.


Engage without making generalizations or assumptions about the person. Be specific about the behaviour which is the cause for concern. It is okay to ask about it, and to name what you see. For example, a faculty member may say, “I’ve noticed that you have not been in class lately, and I’m concerned.” Offer hope and reassure the student that things can get better. Assist the person in realizing that there are always options and resources, and that life will not always seem hopeless.


Refer the student to Counselling Services at Ext. 53244 or Student Health Services at Ext. 52131 to access immediate help and support for student. Except in an emergency situation, you must respect the person’s right to accept or refuse a referral.


Talk with the staff from either Counselling Services (Ext. 53244) or Health Services (Ext. 52131) about the situation, resources that are available and to discuss a plan of action. Consult with colleagues or supervisors for support, guidance, and assistance.