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Supporting Faculty and Staff in Distress

Responding with Respect mental health crisis button

Everyone plays an important role in creating healthy and respectful work environments. The 3 R’s (Recognize, Respond, Refer) are a tool we can use to provide support and guide respectful communication.

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RECOGNIZE the signs More Information and Video

Having a framework for recognition of distress, and how to respond helps provide support when talking to colleagues about concerns.


RESPOND with respect & concern More Information and Video

Reaching out to a colleague shows care and concern, and opens a dialogue to check how they are doing.


REFER to appropriate resources More Information and Video

It’s okay to be uncertain about how to respond.  You don’t need to have all the answers.



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If at any time it is believed that the health or safety of members of the McMaster community is at risk, the appropriate authority or University office must be informed.  Any reference to ending one’s life, suicide or threat of violence must be taken seriously.

What this might look like:

  • Evidence of harm to self or expressed intent to harm self or others
  • Signs of substance overdose or drug reaction
  • Behaving in a threatening or violent manner
  • Erratic behaviour and/or illogical or incoherent speech
  • Obvious lack of care for self

How to refer:

For emergencies at the central campus: contact McMaster Security Services

  • Dial Extension 88 from any campus phone
  • Dial 905-522-4135 from a non-campus phone

For emergencies at other campuses:

Hamilton Health Sciences: Dial extension 5555
St. Joseph’s Hospital: Dial extension 7777
Off-site locations: Dial 911

Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP) – Telus Health:

Dial 1-833-366-4544, visit us online at or download the mobile app.

Suicide Crisis Line: Dial 1-855-294-HOPE (4673)

“I am very concerned about your immediate safety.  We will need to get some additional help”


While you wait for support – you can continue the conversation.  Always be empathetic and non-judgmental.  Never try to physically stop someone from leaving.  You should remain with the individual if possible or note where they go.  Be conscious of safety at all times.


Distinguishing between signs of distress and emergency signs and symptoms can be difficult.  Signs of distress still need to be followed up appropriately, but do not always require an emergency call.

What this might look like:

  • No plan or signs of risk of harm to self or others
  • Distressing life event
  • Feelings of stress and/or anxiety
  • Changes in behaviour effecting ability to function
  • Thoughts of hopelessness and/or worthlessness
  • Signs of substance misuse or abuse

How to refer:

Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP) – Telus Health:

Dial 1-833-366-4544, visit us online at or download the mobile app.

Contacts for Crisis Support

“You seem to be very upset.  I am concerned about you and want to ensure you get some help.”
Next Steps: Based on your role and relationships in the workplace, follow up may look different for each person.
Don’t hesitate to share your concerns with a Person in Authority for additional supports.
For Individuals: After you have had a conversation with your colleague, and if you feel that it’s appropriate, ask them if they would be okay with you checking back in with them soon.
For Managers and Supervisors: If you have observed concerning changes in behaviour in an individual you manage/supervise, you have a responsibility to follow up.  If you need support when preparing for this conversation, please contact your Employee/Labour Relations or Employee Health Services partner.
Taking Care of Yourself: Supporting someone else through an emergency or difficult situation can be stressful.   Do not underestimate the impact this stress can have on your own health and well-being. Please review these resources to support yourself.