Information for staff and faculty

Supporting Students in Distress

Often, Lakehead University faculty and staff will be the first ones to notice a concerning behaviour which may indicate a student is having difficulty and may need help. 

This guide outlines how to recognize when a student is in distress and how to respond effectively when a student approaches you looking for help. See when the next training session is being offered on our event calendar.

Supporting Students in Distress Guide

Thunder Bay

Supporting Students in Distress Guide


Embedding Wellness into the Classroom

Email Signature

Email signatures are regularly used to communicate information. Using your email signature to communicate your working hours can help to support your own work-life balance and create realistic expectations of response time for students.  Linking to the How to Ask for Help guide ensures that even if you do not immediately respond- students are still aware of the support and resources available to them and are encouraged to access them when needed. 

Suggested Signature line:

PLEASE NOTE MY WORK HOURS: I check and respond to emails during my working hours of Monday to Friday, 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. I will not regularly see or respond to emails outside of these hours.

Are you ok? Check in with the WellU Key to find the mental health resources you are looking for

Need to talk to someone right now?  Good 2 Talk is a free, confidential 24/7 post-secondary student helpline. Call 1-866-925-5454 or text GOOD2TALKON to 686868.

Mental Health Syllabi Statement

A statement in the syllabus can send a positive signal of support for students' learning and well-being by including recommendations and encouragement for students to take care of themselves and seek help when they need it.  The statement might also be used to encourage classroom conversations about the stigma that keeps students from getting professional help.

Suggested Statement:

As a university student, you may sometimes experience mental health concerns or stressful events that interfere with your academic performance and negatively impact your daily activities. 

All of us can benefit from support during times of struggle. If you or anyone you know experiences academic stress, difficult life events or feelings of anxiety or depression, Lakehead has resources available to you.  Check in with the WellU Key to find the mental health resources you are looking for.

Remember that getting help is a smart and courageous thing to do- for yourself, for those you care about, and for those who care about you.  Asking for support sooner rather than later is almost always helpful.

You could also choose to include this slide with the statement into your lecture slides. Student Health and Wellness can also provide a short presentation about the wellness services on campus.

Instructional Strategies
  • Create a positive and respectful environment. Explicitly communicate your intent to create an inclusive, accepting, and welcoming learning environment for all students. When teaching and addressing your students, try to use inclusive language (e.g., not making assumptions about your students’ background and life experiences). When students ask questions, listen and convey that you value their input. In general, model how you expect everyone to act in your courses.
  • Foster positive relationships with students. You can increase your approachability and social presence by using humour, addressing students by their names, and personalizing examples used in class. You can also invite students to drop by your office hours just to say hello to make office hours more informal. 
  • Build community among students. You can implement small group activities online, in your classes, or in tutorials, so students have the opportunity to meet and get to know each other. You can also encourage students to form their own study groups or partners. Be mindful that some students may be hesitant to verbally engage in group activities. In these cases, you can encourage them to participate by listening actively. Further, students who are uncomfortable discussing a specific topic may not need to participate.  
  • Foster a sense of belonging. Some students, especially in times of stress, may question whether they belong in their program or university environment in general. Emphasize that stressful academic experiences are normal, temporary, and can eventually be overcome. Avoid saying things like “This is easy” and “This is pretty straightforward”. Remember that what you find easy as a Teaching Assistant or instructor might be challenging for many undergraduates. 
  • Foster a growth mindset. Help your students see that their intelligence and abilities are malleable and changeable with effort and that failures are opportunities for learning. You can talk about your own challenges and failures as an undergraduate student as well as provide low-risk, low-stakes opportunities for students to fail (and learn from these failures) in your classes. You can also share Lakehead's Resiliency Project, which showcases stories from  LU faculty, students, staff, and alumni about struggles they've faced and their resiliency in managing these challenges.
  • Strive to reach all learners.  Using a variety of visuals, hands-on activities, group work, individual work, and other ways of presenting content or problems, helps all students to find a way to engage with the content. For further guidance, see The Teaching Common's Universal Course Design resources.
  • Give thoughtful and balanced feedback.  When giving verbal and written feedback on assignments and assessments, strike a balance between positive feedback (things you can celebrate with them) and constructive feedback (opportunities where they can improve).  Include some positive comments in your overall remarks to increase their motivation. Choose your words carefully – what you say matters a lot to students.  For further guidance, see the Teaching Commons Assessment and Testing section.

Information adapted from Supporting Students’ Mental Wellbeing: Instructional Strategies. Centre for Teaching Excellence, University of Waterloo.

Classroom Presentations

Student Health and Wellness staff are available for classroom presentations. See what sessions are available and complete a request form

Wellness in Learning Environments

Classrooms present the opportunity to reach all students, and faculty and instructors are invaluable contributors to student learning and development. Student Health and Wellness has developed resources to support Lakehead faculty in bringing wellness into the learning environment.

Fostering Well-Being on Campus

Fostering wellbeing on campus: Resources for Faculty

This guide offers Lakehead staff and faculty context for student mental health at Lakehead and practical strategies to support well-being in their classrooms.

Embedding Wellness into the Virtual Classroom

Embedding wellness into the virtual class room title page

This guide is designed to support faculty and instructors in maintaining their own health and well-being while also fostering health and well-being in virtual learning environments.

This resource is based on the “10 Ways to Embed Wellness in the Virtual Classroom” developed by Simon Fraser University’s Health Promotion department and has been adapted with updated resources and to include Lakehead-specific information, resources and branded materials.

For more information about well-being in the online environment, check out this resource from CICMH.

Thriving in the Classroom

This toolkit identifies four kinds of resilience grounded in research and evidence-based practices: community resilience, personal resilience, academic resilience, and career resilience. The toolkit offers practical resources which can easily be inserted directly into your curriculum, resources to support you in designing curriculum and utilizing pedagogical approaches that promote resilience, as well as in-depth research for those interested in learning more about student resilience.

The toolkit was developed by a diverse team of postsecondary faculty, mental health professionals, learning experts, and community partners at Colleges and Universities across Ontario (Centennial College, Humber College, Sheridan College, Trent University, The University of Toronto - OISE, Western University - Ivey School of Business, Ryerson (X) University, and the Centre for Innovation in Campus Mental Health), with generous funding support from eCampus Ontario's Virtual Learning Strategy.
Enabling better student mental health through teaching and learning practices

For more mental health teaching practices, visit Best Practices in Higher Ed.

Student Health and Wellness Resources

If you would like to request promotional materials from Student Health and Wellness, complete this request form.

If you'd like to put some Campus Wellness information in your syllabus or course slides, you can download our premade lecture slide decks or print materials below. If you are looking for something more specific, please reach out to our Health Promoter, Lindsey Wachter.


More Feet on The Ground

This is a free online mental health education program that teaches participants to Recognize, Respond, and Refer individuals experiencing mental health problems on campus. The program was developed by the Council of Ontario Universities (COU) in partnership with Brock University and the Ontario Government’s Mental Health Innovation Fund and has been adapted and branded for all participating post-secondary institutions across Ontario.

Training content:

  • Comprehensive information about common mental health and addiction concerns
  • Overview of signs/symptoms, treatment options, mental health stigma
  • Facts, statistics, and stories of lived experience
  • Campus and community resource information
  • Opportunity to receive a certificate following successful completion of a brief online assessment of learning

Training dates:

More Campus Mental Health Resources
Supporting Your Own Well-Being

Critical Incident Briefing

Critical Incident Group Debrief (CIGD) is one of several methods that may be utilized to lessen the likelihood of people experiencing symptoms of trauma and stress after a critical incident.  This group debriefing process provides a place for participants to talk and share experiences, and for the facilitator to teach and provide information about the impact of critical incidents.  CIGD is a facilitated conversation, not group therapy (CTRI Crisis & Trauma Resource Institute, 2019).

If you have been involved in or heard about a Critical Incident and think that a group debrief might be helpful, please contact Irene Pugliese (807-343-8010, ext. 8998; to set up an information sharing/preparation meeting.


What is a “critical incident”?
A critical incident is a situation that falls outside our normal frame of reference that challenges us instantly to understand and cope with what has happened.  A critical incident included three factors:
  • Coming face to face with the possibility of your own death or someone else’s
  • Feeling out of control of a situation (even if only for a moment)
  • Contain elements of grief/loss
I’m not sure if what happened is a “critical incident”?
If you are unsure about the situation, please feel free to contact Irene to discuss the situation and decide if a CIGD is appropriate.  If it appears that a CIGD would not be the best approach we can assist you in deciding what the best next steps are – we may recommend a different type of intervention, provide you with information/resources to distribute, etc.
When should a critical incident debrief take place?
The best time to hold a critical incident debrief is 3-5 days after an incident occurs.  There may be times where it takes longer to organize a debrief - ideally a debrief will take place within 2 weeks of the incident.
What kinds of information will I need to provide when requesting a CIGD?
 In considering a CIGD, much of the work lies in the preparation.  You will never have all the information, but the more that is gathered, the greater the potential for a successful debrief (see CIGD Intake Questions).
 Can I mandate someone to attend a critical incident debrief?
 Issues of loss of control are key in critical incidents. Because of this, SHW believes choice to participate in a CIGD ought to be voluntary.
 How long is a CIGD session?
 Sessions are typically scheduled for about 2 hours – depending on the participants it may take less time but more than 2 hours can become overwhelming.
Who should attend a CIGD?
Anyone who has been involved in a critical incident can benefit from attending a CIGD session. Something to consider is the level of exposure to the incident - for example, separate debriefs may be needed for those who were directly involved/witnessed the incident vs. those who heard about the incident or were impacted in a different way (i.e. as a result of their relationship with those involved in the critical incident).