Assisting a Colleague in Distress

Faculty and staff play an important role in promoting a positive mental health culture on campus and in supporting each other's mental health and wellbeing. Learn to recognize common signs of distress and how you can offer assistance to a colleague in distress.

Follow up

Call 911 for all imminent life-threatening situations. For all other safety concerns, call Campus Security at 403.220.5333

Possible Indicators of Distress

  • Experiencing a low mood with feelings of heightened worry, anxiety, sadness, or pain.
  • Behaving in a manner that is out of character or unusual.
  • Withdrawing from colleagues, family, or friends.
  • Prolonged irritability and/or unpredictable outbursts of anger.
  • Expressing hopelessness or referencing suicide, self-harm, or harm to others.
  • Displaying unusual disinterest in or disregard for work with marked changes in concentration.

Offering Support and Assistance


  • Trust your instincts.
  • It's okay to ask and express concern.
  • Be specific about the behaviour that worries you.

"Are you okay? I've noticed you seem down lately — is there anything I can do to help?"


  • Listen with an open mind.
  • Ask questions to help understand the situation.
  • Acknowledge thoughts and feelings.

"It sounds like you have a lot on your plate right now. I am here to listen."


  • Point out that there are resources and supports available and encourage your colleague to seek help early.
  • Offer to help your colleague connect with resources.
  • Accept that your role is to be a supportive colleague and if your colleague declines your offer of help, respect their decision (except in emergency situations).

"Is there anything I can do to help you connect with resources?"

"I respect your decision and I'm here if you'd like to talk."

Follow Up

  • Continue to check-in with your colleague to see how they are doing.
  • Practice self-care and seek personal support as needed.

"How are you doing? I'm here if you'd like to talk."

Immediately Report

  • Aggressive, threatening, or violent behavior.
  • Immediate safety concerns related to suicidal thoughts or behaviors.
  • Medical emergencies, including drug or alcohol poisoning.
  • Call 911 for all imminent life-threatening situations. For all other safety concerns, call Campus Security at 403.220.5333

Make the Right Referral — Resources are Available

Encourage your colleagues to connect with available resources as soon as possible. Remind them that even though asking for help can be difficult at first, recognizing when and why we need some extra assistance is actually a sign of strength.

On-campus Resources

Staff Wellness

Calling Staff Wellness is a great first step for faculty or staff or post-doctoral scholars experiencing distress. The Mental Health Consultant and Ability Management Advisors can provide advice about appropriate on and off-campus support resources.

403.220.2918 |

Campus Security

For all imminent life-threatening situations, call 911. For all other safety and security concerns, call Campus Security for 24/7 support and immediate response.

403.220.5333 |

Sexual Violence Support Advocate

The Sexual Violence Support Advocate at UCalgary offers confidential support and information regarding sexual violence to all members of the university community.

403.220.2208 |

Office of Diversity, Equity and Protected Disclosure

The Protected Disclosure Advisor is available to all members of the university community and serves as a confidential resource for individuals seeking information and advice on sensitive and diverse matters.

403.220.4086 |

WellBeing and WorkLife

WellBeing and WorkLife empowers faculty and staff to achieve a high level of wellbeing through tools and
resources that support a proactive approach to managing health and wellness. |

Student Wellness Services

Faculty and staff can contact Student Wellness Services for information about assisting students or visit for walk-in medical appointments, chiropractic treatments, massage therapy and nutrition services.
403.210.9355 |

Off-campus Resources

Employee and Family Assistance Plan

The Employee and Family Assistance Plan (EFAP) offers a continuum of supports and services. EFAP provides in-person, online, telephone, and email support at no cost to faculty and staff. EFAP can connect individuals seeking longer-term support to community resources.

1.800.663.1142 |

211 Alberta

211 Alberta connects users to the right community and social services. Dial 211 to speak to an information and referral specialist, search the online resource directory, or chat onlinedaily from noon to 8 p.m. MST.

Dial 211 |

Access Mental Health

Access Mental Health provides information, consultation and referral to individuals with addiction and/or mental health concerns. Clinicians work over the phone to help you navigate the addiction and mental health system.

403.943.1500 | 1.844.943.1500

Distress Centre Calgary

Connect to professional counsellors at the Distress Centre Calgary through their 24-hour crisis line, email, or online chat. Face-to-face counselling is also available.

403.266.HELP (4357) |

Your Employee and Family Assistance Plan

When you or someone you care about needs support, help is available through the Employee and Family Assistance Plan (EFAP) from Homewood Health. Whether you need advice, counselling or treatment, the EFAP can lend a hand. UCalgary faculty and staff can access this valuable resource 24 hours a day at no cost.

Counselling Services

  • In-person, over the phone, live-chat, or video counselling available
  • 24/7, free, and confidential crisis support
  • Bridging to community resources and specialized referrals and treatment, if needed

Lifestyle and Specialty Coaching


Lifestyle changes, weight management, smoking cessation.

Life Balance

Childcare and parenting, elder and family care, relationships, financial consultation, legal advice.


Career planning, workplace issues, retirement planning, shift worker support.


Toll Free 1.800.663.1142

French 1.866.398.9505

TTY/Hearing Impaired 1.888.384.1152

International — Call Collect 604.689.1717

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Download the Documentation

This is the online version of Assisting a Colleague in Distress. Download a copy of the documentation for your use.