Helping Someone in Distress

Recognize unusual behaviour 

Do you see any behaviour that may be out of character or unusual for someone? Early intervention plays a key role in supporting mental health challenges.


High risk of harm 

Behaviour that is violent, destructive, harmful, aggressive or threatening to self or others. This is an emergency. 

  • Are they thinking frequently of harming themselves, or seriously considering suicide?  
  • Are they missing most of their classes or work? 


Moderate risk of harm 

Changes in personal appearance and hygiene, low mood, avoidance of people, substance use concerns, disorganized thinking, expressions of hopelessness, or references to suicide. 

  • Avoiding family, coworkers and friends or feeling isolated. 
  • Stopped taking care of themselves or their personal hygiene. 
  • Something unexpected happened in their life, like a death or accident. 
  • Taking substances, like drugs or alcohol to cope. 


Low risk of harm 

Difficulty with studies, family or relationship problems, chronic health conditions, difficulty concentrating, issues with sleep, increased interpersonal conflict. 

  • Feeling overwhelmed in their studies or work. 
  • Having family or relationship issues. 
  • Having difficulties concentrating or with sleeping. 


Respond with concern and empathy

Non-judgmental and supportive language includes:  

  • “I have noticed...”  
  • “I am concerned...” 
  • “I hear what you are saying...”  
  • “How can I help you to...” 


Refer the person to available resources

Non-judgmental and supportive language includes: 

  • “What do you need in order to...”  
  • “Can I suggest...”  
  • “uOttawa Wellness website has lots of resources. Let’s look at it together...”  


We have resources to help. What works for them right now? 

Need Help Now?Information

Mental Health Crisis Line

  • 613-722-6914
  • 1-866-996-0991

University of Ottawa Security – Emergency Line

  • 613-562-5411

PARO Helpline

  • 1-866-HELP-DOC

Ontario Medical Association / Physician Health Program

  • 1-800-851-6606
Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP)
  • Tel.:1-844-880-9142

Homewood Health

  • Tel.:1-800-663-1142

Canada Suicide Prevention Service

  • Tel: 1-800-456-4566
  • Quebec residents: 1-866-277-3553
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