Our goal is to help provide you consultation in a timely manner and to help identify and provide any services or support a student may need.

You may contact your school’s assigned Mental Health Liaison. The liaison will consult with you on your concerns and how to refer the student for services if appropriate. If you need to talk to someone more urgently about a student concern, you may call the SMHW Administrative Team (415-476-1281) who will put you in touch with the counselor on-call that day or someone else who can assist you.

Your response will be based on your level of concern. Always err on the side of caution and respond accordingly. You may reference Act Swiftly! for more information and a list of campus resources. Or need help identifying signs of distress Student of Concern Consultation | UCSF Student Life.

Your options in decreasing level of urgency are:

Yes. Students can reach out for support and remain anonymous. 

Yes. SMHW follows confidentiality laws very strictly.

Students have a right to privacy and written permission must be obtained before SMHW will release any personal health information to anyone outside of SMHW, with only limited legal and ethical exceptions.

Counseling records are maintained separately from student’s primary care records in the SMHW electronic medical record (EMR). The SMHW EMR is not part of the UCSF Medical Center EMR – all records are in completely separate EMRs and only SMHW staff has access to the SMHW EMR.

In the course of discussing a student of concern with SMHW, faculty and staff may relay any information they feel comfortable communicating to SMHW which may help us serve the student. SMHW is not at liberty to discuss or disclose any information we may have about the student that came from the student themselves or other sources.

By all means say something. Students struggling with a personal difficulty can often feel alone or isolated.

Sometimes it is hard to know what to say when speaking to a student for whom you have concerns. You might fear that if you bring up your worries he or she will get angry or feel insulted or embarrassed. But, giving the student room to talk and directing them to appropriate resources can be of great help.

You may be unsure what questions to ask or how to be supportive. Remember that being a compassionate listener is much more important than giving advice. You don’t have to try to “fix” the person or solve the problem; you just have to be a good listener. Often, the simple act of talking to someone face-to-face can be an enormous help.

If you don’t know where to start, the following suggestions may help--

  • Ways to start the conversation:
  • "I have been feeling concerned about you lately."
  • "Recently, I have noticed some differences in you and wondered how you are doing."
  • "I wanted to check in with you because you have seemed pretty down lately."
  • Questions you can ask:
  • "When did you begin feeling like this?"
  • "Did something happen that made you start feeling this way?"
  • "How can I best support you right now?"
  • "Have you thought about getting help?"
  • “Are you aware of the services at Student Mental Health and Wellbeing?"

Remember, being supportive involves offering encouragement and hope.

Yes. You can reach us a by phone or email. Call SMHW (415.476.1281) and tell the staff person that you would like to consult with one of the mental health providers about a student.

The staff person will direct your request to one of the mental health providers and they will get back to as soon as possible. You may also visit the SMHW website to identify your school’s assigned Mental Health Liaison and contact that counselor directly.

There are many ways you can approach suggesting a student seek counseling services after you have expressed to them you have concern for their well-being.

  • Normalize the experience – 20% of UCSF students see a SMHW counselor each year (based on 2015-16 data). “That translates to 1 in 5 students and means you probably know other students who have also accessed services.”

    If you or someone close to you has personal experience seeking counseling, you can use language like “When I’ve hit in a bump in the road, I’ve found it helpful to talk to a professional for advice”.
  • Why not give it a try? – Suggests that they “give counseling a try”. If you go for one or two visits and it’s not for you, you can always stop. But what if it WOULD be helpful? You won’t know until you go. What have you got to lose?
  • Consider the words you use – The student may feel stigmatized seeking mental health services. Students may shy away for identifying as having a “mental health” issue or seeing a “psychologist”. Encourage the student to look at counseling services as a consult resource for anyone who is trying to be successful or thrive in a particular area and may need support. A counselor can also help refer students to other appropriate, non-clinical resources that may assist them.
  • Make the process seem less “unknown” – If you have been introduced to any of the SMHW staff personally, allay the student’s concerns by saying “I’ve met (counselor’s name or names) and they are really nice, helpful people. In my experience they have been really helpful to students”.
  • Reassure the student it’s between them and their provider – Ensure the student the visit is completely confidential. No one will have access to information about their visit. This might be especially important if the student already feels a stigma asking for help.
  • Try an intermediate step – If they won’t go to counseling – suggest an SMHW outreach workshop to “get to know” the services.

    Sometimes students will be willing to go to a trusted SMHW medical provider to talk about an issue, who can then further discuss the student’s options with them including how counseling might help.
  • Remind them that the visit is free of charge – “The University believes these services are so important that your student fees go to pay for the services so they are always there if you need them – why not take advantage of what the University has made available to you? These resources are provided so students can do their best and succeed.”
  • Help remove barriers – Sometimes the extra effort of finding time to make a call or hunting down contact information may be JUST enough of a barrier that the person pushes the task aside. Make sure the student knows the number to call and understands how easy the process will be. Offer to make the call with them while you are sitting there together. The Faculty/Staff webpage on SMHW’s website describes how to help a student secure a visit with a counselor.

Let the student know that SMHW will help them find a counselor outside SMHW. If the first attempt didn’t work out – the student should contact the counselor in SMHW who referred them for additional recommendations or support. Secure messaging through the SMHW EMR portal is a good option to contact the counselor.

You may also contact SMHW and let us know the student needs further assistance with finding an outside counselor and we will contact the student to offer assistance. It’s always a good idea to let the student know you contacted us. If the student is depressed or having a particularly hard time, they may lack motivation and you helping make that “warm hand-off” could be of value to the student.

Postdocs are not eligible for SMHW services, but they may receive services at no cost from the Faculty Staff Assistance Program (FSAP). Click here for information about FSAP – including telephone number. FSAP also has an Officer-of-the-Day you may contact with questions. Postdocs also have health insurance that will provide for mental health counseling on an on-going basis if needed.

There are several factors that contribute to a student connecting smoothly with a counselor outside SMHW.

  • Cost can be a barrier. SMHW attempts to connect students to network providers so their out-of-pocket costs remain as low as possible. SMHW is familiar with network providers associated with the UC Student Health Insurance Plan (UC SHIP). But if a student doesn’t have UC SHIP or has MediCal – finding a network provider may take more time and be a little more difficult.
  • Convenience is another barrier. Students have very busy schedules. Seeing an off-campus counselor requires travel time and a little more effort to schedule. If a student has a tight schedule, they may not be able to fit in the two or more hours it would take to go see a counselor. Frequently counselors who work evening or weekends will not have those appointments available because they are in high demand and it may take longer to obtain and evening or weekend appointment.
  • Connection is a third barrier. Not every client and every counselor are a fit. In some circumstances, a student may see a therapist and not feel like they have a good therapeutic connection and choose to see a different counselor. From there – the whole process of identifying and getting in with a new counselor starts over! Again, let SMHW know if there are problems and we will offer assistance.

If your concern for the student is so urgent it cannot wait until SMHW is open – you may need to call 911 or walk the student to the ER. You may also refer a student to the after-hours Mental Health Consult Line (415-476-1281; option 2). The Mental Health Consult Line connects students to a non-SMHW counselor who can provide support and encourage students to seek further services if appropriate. The Mental Health Consult line providers have information about where to refer students locally in the case of a true emergency. The Act Swiftly! website can also help you locate resources.