Managing distressed students

This online webinar will take place via Zoom. You will receive further communications and joining instructions around a week before the event.

AUA Member £45+VAT | Non-member £95+VAT

9.30 to 12.30

Thursday 8 December 2022

About this Event

There is no doubt that students’ expectations of us, as staff working in higher education, are shifting radically. This is particularly evident when it comes to student mental health and wellbeing. Staff across the sector are finding it a challenge to respond to the levels of distress that students can present with.

In this half-day online training event (09.30 – 12:30), we will start by exploring the nature of distress and the way in which a student might present.  We will then explore a range of practical skills you need to respond to students in distress, invaluable skills whether you are a manager of a large student-facing team or a new member of staff in your first role in higher education.

As well as practical ways for us to manage and reduce a student’s distress, we will concentrate on ways in which we can assert and protect the boundaries of our own roles when working with students.  This is absolutely key to looking after our own wellbeing in any interaction with a distressed student. 

We will also be discussing students who are at higher levels of risk and how our response needs to be different in these circumstances. The session will help you to feel confident, for example, in talking to a student who tells you that they feels suicidal.

Every element of this session has been designed specifically for, and informed by experience within, the higher education sector. 

Given our current context and increased remote working, we will also be considering how remote working with students – via video call, telephone or email – might affect the way in which we can, and should, response to a distressed student.

You will have the opportunity to consider some practical case studies and ask questions or make comments throughout the event. This session may include virtual breakout rooms where you will be required to enable your microphones and have discussions in small groups.

Who is it for?

Whether you are new to the sector, early career, mid-level management or senior management, this event is a chance to talk best practice and focus on this key aspect of our duty of care towards students.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this session, participants will:

1. Understand the nature of distress

2. Know how to respond confidently to a distressed student

3. Take away important tips for talking to a student who is presenting a high level of risk to themselves or others (for example, a student who mentions that they are feeling suicidal)

4. Understand practical ways to maintain the boundaries of their role, and look after their own wellbeing, when supporting students

Interested in becoming an AUA Member? Find out more and how to join here.

Details in brief

Location: Online via Zoom

Date: Thursday 8 December 2022

Time: 9:30 to 12.30

Fees: Member £45+VAT | Non-member £95+VAT


Julie Rea

Plinth House

Specialist Consultant and Trainer

An experienced manager of mental health support in higher education, Julie Rea is a specialist consultant and trainer with Plinth House, based in the North East but working throughout the UK. Recently, Julie has led projects for Swansea University, Falmouth University, the University of Exeter, the University of Wolverhampton and student accommodation provider, Abodus. Julie delivers training and workshops to university staff – personal tutors, accommodation wardens and other student-facing staff – helping people to feel confident in responding to distressed students and maintaining effective boundaries. Julie also carries out service reviews to enhance university counselling and mental health teams. Julie qualified as a Registered Mental Health Nurse in 1999, working in acute admission inpatient services and as ward manager at a regional young people’s unit. In 2008, Julie joined Northumbria University’s then Counselling Service as its first mental health practitioner and several years later headed up the team. Julie remodelled the service – introducing on-line registration, shared case notes, and a full multidisciplinary approach to counselling and mental health support, all underpinned by a robust approach to assessing clinical risk. Julie added workshops, guided self-help and EMDR (eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing) to the support offer, and developed a process for devising Behavioural Management Plans to help students and services manage maladaptive and high-risk student behaviours. Julie’s management of the service was central to Northumbria University winning the Times Higher Education Leadership and Management Award for ‘Outstanding Student Services Team’.

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