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Faculty, Staff, and Student Leaders toolkit

A toolkit on how to identify a basic needs and wellness situation,
talking to students about these needs, and resources...

 

student on patio

 

Identifying a Basic Needs and Wellness Situation

When a student talks about food, housing, finances, mental health (stress, anxiety, depression, etc.), and sleep…

  • Listen for statements about a lack of or barriers to food, housing, finances, mental health or sleep.
  • Listen for vague language or downplaying of their situation.
  • Take statements about basic needs or wellness seriously, even if they seem casual and even if a student feels or acts normal about their situation.
  • If you hear a student talk about a basic needs or wellness situation, follow up with them via email, text, Zoom messaging, or in person to check in and talk about resources available to them.

Use the dropdowns below to find more specific information on how to identify a Basic Needs and Wellness situation. 

 

Helping a student with Food Insecurity

screenshot of youtube video

About Food Insecurity

1 in 3 SDSU students surveyed on the 2021 administration of the NCHA reported it was often or sometimes true that the food they bought just didn't last, and they didn't have money to get more.

(American College Health Association. American College Health Association-National College Health Assessment III: San Diego State University Executive Summary Spring 2021.  American College Health Association; 2021.)

55% of students surveyed on the 2020 SDSU Basic Needs survey indicated they experienced at least one form of food insecurity in the last 6 months.

(San Diego State University. (2020). Basic Needs Survey. Access to Technology, Food and Housing Insecurity.)

Verbal Cues of Food Insecurity

  • “I’m so hungry but can’t eat”
  • “I’ve literally spent all my money on rent”
  • “I’ve spent every dime I have on housing”

Non-Verbal Cues of Food Insecurity

  • Look out for excessively tired students
  • Students having difficulties paying attention
  • Changes in mood and focus

Resources for Food Insecurity

How to Talk to a student in this situation?

Suggested resources from the Food section of the toolkit

Immediate Food Resources

  • A.S. Food Pantry
  • Economic Crisis Response Team

Beyond Food Resources

  • Cal Fresh Enrollment Specialists
  • Financial Aid & Scholarships
  • Student Account Services

"Immediate" Resources are ones where you can refer a student to right away where they can be helped right away. 
"Beyond" Resources are ones that can be contacted right away, but have a waiting time associated with receiving the resource.

Helping a student with Housing Insecurity

screeshot of youtube video

About Housing Insecurity

31.7% of students surveyed on the 2020 SDSU Basic Needs survey indicated that their living was unstable.

(San Diego State University. (2020). Basic Needs Survey. Access to Technology, Food and Housing Insecurity.) 

Verbal Cues of Housing Insecurity

  • “I haven’t worked in a long time and I don’t know how I’m going to pay my rent”
  • “I have no place to live, I've been staying here and there, I'm staying on a couch etc.”
  • “I need to pay my car insurance”
  • “ I must pay for my registration”

Non-Verbal Cues of Housing Insecurity

  • Sleepiness
  • Looking disheveled
  • Doing poorly in classes
  • Frequently moving around from various friends houses
  • Overt fear of losing their car/vehicle, especially if living in their car is their sole housing option

Resources for Housing Insecurity

How to Talk to a student in this situation?

Suggested resources from the Housing section of the toolkit:

Immediate Housing Resources

  • Economic Crisis Response Team
  • 2-1-1 San Diego

Beyond Housing Resources

  • Financial Aid & Scholarships
  • Student Account Services

"Immediate" Resources are ones where you can refer a student to right away where they can be helped right away. 
"Beyond" Resources are ones that can be contacted right away, but have a waiting time associated with receiving the resource.

About Financial Insecurity

According to the most recent data (2017-2018), 42.4% of SDSU students received the federal Pell grant, which is a proxy measure for low-income status among students.

Verbal Cues of Financial Insecurity

 
  • “I’ve been skipping (breakfast/lunch/dinner) every day to save money”
  • “I used all my loans” and the semester just started (~1 month)

Non-Verbal Cues of Financial Insecurity

  • Changes in behavior (ex. A student normally showing up to class but now is not)
  • Changes in mood (if a student is having an outburst)
  • Changes in physical appearance (student is disheveled)

Resources for Financial Insecurity

How to Talk to a student in this situation?

Suggested resources from the Financial Insecurity section of the toolkit:

Immediate Financial Resources

  • Economic Crisis Response Team

Beyond Financial Resources

  • Financial Aid & Scholarships
  • Student Account Services

"Immediate" Resources are ones where you can refer a student to right away where they can be helped right away. 
"Beyond" Resources are ones that can be contacted right away, but have a waiting time associated with receiving the resource.

 
 

About Mental Health

According to most recent data, CSU students report feeling depressed (36.3%), overwhelming anxiety (57.4%), overwhelming anger (41.3%), and more than average/tremendous stress (50.7%) within the past 12 months.

Verbal Cues of a Mental Health Situation

 
  • Suicidal ideation, such as “I can’t do this anymore” 
  • “I don’t want to be here anymore”
  •  “I can’t handle this”
  • “I’m over it”
  •  "I've been sleeping a lot and every time I try to do work I fall asleep"
  •  "My mind just races and I can't focus"
  •  “I’m sorry I couldn’t get the assignment in on time”
  • "I’m scared that I’m not going to get any work done can you help me?” 

Non-Verbal Cues of a Mental Health Situation

  • Tearfulness
  • Remarkable fidgetiness, difficult sitting still, distracted

Resources for a Mental Health Situation

How to Talk to a student in this situation?

Suggested resources from our Mental Health section of the toolkit:

Immediate Mental Health Resources

  • San Diego Access & Crisis Line (chat/phone/text)

Beyond Mental Health Resources

  • Schedule a phone consultation with a C&PS therapist
  • Talk It Out
  • Speak with an Assistant Dean
  • Speak with the Community Resource Specialist

"Immediate" Resources are ones where you can refer a student to right away where they can be helped right away. 
"Beyond" Resources are ones that can be contacted right away, but have a waiting time associated with receiving the resource.

 

About Sleep Wellness

Daytime sleepiness and sleep difficulties affect 11% and 17.2% of CSU students, respectively.

Verbal Cues of a Sleep Wellness Situation

  • “I’ve only slept for <5 hrs”
  • “I’m so exhausted”
  • “I downed a monster before this class” (especially if it’s an afternoon class)
  • “I’m sleeping at a friend’s house”
  • “I’m sleeping on the couch right now”
  • “I’m sleeping in my car”
  • “I don't want to sleep at my house right now”

Non-Verbal Cues of a Sleep Wellness Situation

  • Falling asleep in class/during meetings etc.
  • Nodding off in class/during meetings etc.
  • Sleeping in unusual places
  • Decline in quality of work, uneven performance
  • Tardiness to class
  • The appearance of “zoning out”
  • Impaired mood
  • Increase in motor vehicle accidents

Resources for a Sleep Wellness Situation

How to Talk to a student in this situation?

Suggested resources from our Sleep Wellness section of the toolkit:

Immediate Sleep Resources

  • Sleep Strategies From C&PS
  • Sleep Deprivation Resources for Students that are Parents

Beyond Sleep Resources

  • Healthy Sleep Habits Presentation
  • Aspire Program: For students experiencing sleep deprivation because of drinking (includes resources for binge drinking)

"Immediate" Resources are ones where you can refer a student to right away where they can be helped right away. 
"Beyond" Resources are ones that can be contacted right away, but have a waiting time associated with receiving the resource.

 

About Physical Health

20% of CSU students report their health as not good.

Verbal Cues of a Physical Health Situation

Statements emphasizing:

  • Unpleasant states of sleep
  • Appetite/Eating Behaviors
  • Crying
  • Physical Energy
  • Slowing Down of Excitement
  • Slowed Motor Skills
  • Reduced Sexual Desire
  • Slower Memory
    /Worsened Concentration
  • Words like weak, dizzy, tense, restless, and low

Non-Verbal Cues of a Physical Health Situation

  • Low energy
  • Poor appetite
  • Weight loss or weight gain
  • Poor concentration
  • Slowed motor skills
  • Visibly weak
  • Mood changes (frustration, withdrawn, quiet)

Resources for a Physical Health Situation

How to Talk to a student in this situation?

Suggested resources from our Physical Health section of the toolkit:

Immediate Physical Health Resources

  • Aztec Recreation
  • Live Well Aztecs/Campus Well

Beyond Physical Health Resources

  • Nutrition one-on-one sessions
  • Student Health Services

"Immediate" Resources are ones where you can refer a student to right away where they can be helped right away. 
"Beyond" Resources are ones that can be contacted right away, but have a waiting time associated with receiving the resource.

 

About Safety

24% of CSU students do not feel very safe on campus during the day, and 79% of CSU students do not feel very safe at night.

Verbal Cues of a Safety Situation

  • I'm scared to go home

Non-Verbal Cues of a Safety Situation

  • Falling asleep in class/during meetings etc.
  • Nodding off in class/during meetings etc.
  • Sleeping in unusual places
  • Decline in quality of work, uneven performance
  • Tardiness to class
  • The appearance of “zoning out”
  • Impaired mood
  • Increase in motor vehicle accidents

Resources for a Safety Situation

How to Talk to a student presenting safety concerns?

Suggested resources from our Safety section of the toolkit:

Immediate Safety Resources

  • University Police
  • Title IX

Beyond Safety Resources

  • Aztec Recreation Self-Defense Classes

"Immediate" Resources are ones where you can refer a student to right away where they can be helped right away. 
"Beyond" Resources are ones that can be contacted right away, but have a waiting time associated with receiving the resource.

 

About AOD

56% of CSU students reported alcohol use in the last 30 days and 12% of students took prescription drugs that were not prescribed to them.

Verbal Cues of an Alcohol & Other Drug Situation

  • “I’m so hungover”
  • “I probably shouldn’t go out tonight but I feel like I need to”
  • Language about partying frequently or on weekdays

Non-Verbal Cues of an Alcohol & Other Drug Situation

 

  • Academic decline/lack of motivation
  • Changes in personality traits
  • Sudden mood swings
  • Giving up activities to do drugs or recover from a hangover
  • Continuing to drink or do drugs even after health problems incur
  • Frequent runny nose (common with cocaine addiction)
  • Loss of physical coordination
  • Bloodshot eyes
    Changes in weight and appetite
  • Extreme lethargy
  • Tremors or seizures
  • Changes in sleep patterns

Resources for an Alcohol & Other Drug Situation

How to Talk to a student presenting AOD concerns?

Suggested resources from our AOD section of the toolkit:

Immediate AOD Resources

  • Marijuana eCHECKUP TO GO
  • Alcohol eCHECKUP TO GO

Beyond AOD Resources

  • Alcohol and Other Drugs (AOD) Presentation
  • Counseling & Psychological Services ASPIRE Program

"Immediate" Resources are ones where you can refer a student to right away where they can be helped right away. 
"Beyond" Resources are ones that can be contacted right away, but have a waiting time associated with receiving the resource.

 

About Academic Need

48% of CSU students report their academic issues are traumatic or very difficult to handle.

Verbal Cues of an Academic Need Situation

Statements emphasizing:

  • “I’m struggling with my classes”
  • “I’m barely passing”
  • “I don’t know how I’m going to hold up this semester”

Non-Verbal Cues of an Academic Need Situation

  • Submitting assignments late
  • Declining academic performance

Resources for an Academic Need Situation

How to Talk to a student presenting Academic concerns?

Suggested resources from our Academic Needs section of the toolkit:

Immediate Academic Resources

  • SDSU Library, Technology Checkout
  • ECRT

Beyond Academic Resources

  • SDSU Office of Advising
  • SDSU Office of the Registrar

"Immediate" Resources are ones where you can refer a student to right away where they can be helped right away. 
"Beyond" Resources are ones that can be contacted right away, but have a waiting time associated with receiving the resource.

student under tree

Talking to students about Basic Needs and Wellness.

If a student’s behavior seems abnormal: whether they are crying often, withdrawn, irritable, angry, or stressed…

  • Check in with them using open ended questions
  • Actively listen to what they have to say
  • Use the information from your conversation to refer the student to the appropriate resource.

Use the dropdowns below to view further resources on a variety of situations.

Be Proactive

You don’t need to wait for a sign to address basic needs and wellness. Be proactive by:

  • Making an announcement towards the beginning of the semester that identifies yourself as a point person for students who are experiencing difficulties with basic needs and wellness and normalizes talking about basic needs and wellness situations.
  • Adding basic needs and wellness resources to your email signature or at the end of your class syllabus.
  • Registering for and attending an ECRT advocate training.

Resources

Resources for this situation:

Copy and paste this paragraph into your syllabus to identify yourself as an ally to students presenting basic needs and wellness concerns and to educate students on the need-to-know resources for them.
Integrate the Economic Crisis Response Team (ECRT) language into your syllabus so that students know that ECRT is here to support them with their basic needs and economic crisis. 

  • SDSU Economic Crisis Response Team 

    If you or a friend are experiencing food or housing insecurity, technology concerns, or any unforeseen financial crisis, it is easy to get help! Visit sdsu.edu/ecrt for more information or to submit a request for assistance.

    SDSU’s Economic Crisis Response Team (ECRT) aims to bridge the gap in resources for students experiencing immediate food, housing, or unforeseen financial crises that impact student success. Using a holistic approach to well-being, ECRT supports students through crisis by leveraging a campus-wide collaboration that utilizes on- and off-campus partnerships and provides direct referrals based on each student’s unique circumstances. ECRT empowers students to identify and access long-term, sustainable solutions in an effort to successfully graduate from SDSU. Within 24 to 72 hours of submitting a referral, students are contacted by a member of ECRT and are quickly connected to the appropriate resources and services.

    For students who need assistance accessing technology for their classes, visit our ECRT website (sdsu.edu/ecrt) to be connected with the SDSU library's technology checkout program. The technology checkout program is available to both San Diego and Imperial Valley students. 

ECRT Advocate trainings are available to all faculty, staff, and student leaders.

  • Learn about basic needs issues facing SDSU students, assistance programs, and ways you can help.
  • To register for an ECRT Advocate training click the link on our  ECRT website 
 

Check in & Listen

When you see a student crying, check in with them about their basic needs and wellness. 
  • Use an open-ended question to ask about their well-being, like:

    “What’s going on that’s making you cry?"

    "We can set a time to talk about what’s going on for you right now.”
  • Actively listen to the student's response and respond with statements that demonstrate that you are listening and you are supportive of the student, like:

    “I understand how stressful this must be. I am happy to connect you with people on campus who can help.”
Once you’ve assessed the student’s situation, use the information you learned to refer them to the appropriate resource.

Resources

Resources for a student in this situation:
  • Dependent on what basic needs or wellness situation was identified, refer the student to an appropriate resource. Learn more about which resources apply to which situations in the Referral page of the toolkit.
 

Check in & Listen

 

Some students might express underlying feelings or problem situations through anger and irritation. Phrases like:

  • “How can I best help you?” can be a good way to check in with a student and de-escalate their anger.
  • If a student shares frustrations, listen, nod, and, when appropriate, reflect their feelings with a statement like “that sounds so frustrating.”

Alternate verbal and non-verbal cues to watch out for in angry/irritable students:

  • Yelling
  • Making other noises out of turn
  • Balling their fists
  • Shaking body part
  • Visibly rapid breathing

When checking in with a student, make sure you ask them about their basic needs or wellness. Some questions you can ask include:

  • How are things going at home?
  • How are you doing with getting enough food everyday?  
  • Tell me about your housing situation.
  • How has your sleep been?
  • Do you have adequate technology for class?
  • How has your mental health been?
Once you’ve assessed the student’s situation, use the information you learned to refer them to the appropriate resource!

Resources

Dependent on what basic needs or wellness situation was identified, refer the student to an appropriate resource.
Learn more about which resources apply to which situations in the Referral page of the toolkit.
 

Check in & Listen

 

If a student’s behavior seems abnormal, assess for a basic needs and wellness crisis.

When appropriate, pull the student aside (in-person or online) and ask them if something is going on. Ask questions like:

  • How are things going at home?
  • How are you doing with getting enough food everyday?  
  • Tell me about your housing situation.
  • How has your sleep been?
  • Do you have adequate technology for class?
  • How has your mental health been?

Once you’ve assessed the student’s situation, use the information you learned to refer them to the appropriate resource!

Resources

 

Dependent on what basic needs or wellness situation was identified, refer the student to an appropriate resource.
Learn more about which resources apply to which situations in the Referral page of the toolkit.
 

Check in & Listen

If a student demonstrates behavior that is withdrawn or isolated, assess them for a basic needs and wellness crises.

When appropriate, pull the student aside (in-person or online) and ask them if something is going on. Ask questions like:

  • How are things going at home?
  • How are you doing with getting enough food everyday?  
  • Tell me about your housing situation.
  • How has your sleep been?
  • Do you have adequate technology for class?
  • How has your mental health been?

Once you’ve assessed the student’s situation, use the information you learned to refer them to the appropriate resource!

Resources

 

Dependent on what basic needs or wellness situation was identified, refer the student to an appropriate resource.
Learn more about which resources apply to which situations in the Referral page of the toolkit.
 

Check in & Listen

If a student demonstrates behavior that suggests stress or panic, assess them for a basic needs and wellness crises.

When appropriate, pull the student aside (in-person or online) and ask them if something is going on. Ask questions like:

  • How are things going at home?
  • How are you doing with getting enough food everyday?  
  • Tell me about your housing situation.
  • How has your sleep been?
  • Do you have adequate technology for class?
  • How has your mental health been?

Once you’ve assessed the student’s situation, use the information you learned to refer them to the appropriate resource!

Resources

Dependent on what basic needs or wellness situation was identified, refer the student to an appropriate resource.
Learn more about which resources apply to which situations in the Referral page of the toolkit.
 

Check in & Listen

If a student presents concerns regarding their physical health, assess them for a basic needs and wellness crisis.

When appropriate, pull the student aside (in-person or online) and ask them if something is going on. Ask questions like:

  • How are things going at home?
  • How are you doing with getting enough food everyday?  
  • Tell me about your housing situation.
  • How has your sleep been?
  • How has your mental health been?
  • Have you been to see a medical provider lately? 
  • How are you prioritizing and taking care of your physical health?

Once you’ve assessed the student’s situation, use the information you learned to refer them to the appropriate resource!

Resources

Dependent on what basic needs or wellness situation was identified, refer the student to an appropriate resource.
Learn more about which resources apply to which situations in the Physical Health Resources page of the toolkit.
 

Check in & Listen

If a student demonstrates behavior that suggests stress or panic, assess them for a basic needs and wellness crises.

When appropriate, pull the student aside (in-person or online) and ask them if something is going on. Ask questions like:

  • Have you felt unsafe recently?
  • Is there anything or anyone at home that makes you feel unsafe?
  • What aspects of your health are worrying you right now?
  • What is home like for you during this time?
  • Who is your life is helping you get through things right now / Is there anyone in your life that is making things harder?
  • Are you worried about anyone in your life?
  • Is everything alright at home? 
    How are things going at home?
  • How are you doing with getting enough food everyday?  
  • Tell me about your housing situation.
  • How has your sleep been?

Once you’ve assessed the student’s situation, use the information you learned to refer them to the appropriate resource!

Resources

Dependent on what basic needs or wellness situation was identified, refer the student to an appropriate resource.
Learn more about which resources apply to which situations in the Safety section on the Safety Resources page of the toolkit.
 

Check in & Listen

If a student demonstrates behavior that suggests they are suffering from alcohol or other drugs, assess them for a basic needs and wellness crisis.

When appropriate, pull the student aside (in-person or online) and ask them if something is going on. 

Ask questions about alcohol and other drugs:

  • Do you spend a lot of time drinking/using substances?
  • Do you need to drink or use more substances than you once did to get the effect you want?
  • Have you tried to cut down or stop your drinking/substance use but couldn’t?

Then ask about basic needs:

  • Is everything alright at home? 
  • How are you doing with getting enough food everyday?  
  • Tell me about your housing situation.
  • Are you getting enough sleep?
  • Are you feeling mentally drained?

Once you’ve assessed the student’s situation, use the information you learned to refer them to the appropriate resource!

Resources

Dependent on what basic needs or wellness situation was identified, refer the student to an appropriate resource.
Learn more about which resources apply to which situations in the  AOD Resources page of the toolkit.
 

Check in & Listen

If a student demonstrates behavior that suggests they are suffering academically, assess them for a basic needs and wellness crisis.

When appropriate, pull the student aside (in-person or online) and ask them if something is going on. 

Ask questions about academic needs:

  • Are you struggling to make grades or with schoolwork?
  • Do you have adequate technology for class?

Then ask about basic needs:

  • Is everything alright at home? 
  • How are you doing with getting enough food everyday?  
  • Tell me about your housing situation.
  • Are you getting enough sleep?
  • Are you feeling mentally drained?

Once you’ve assessed the student’s situation, use the information you learned to refer them to the appropriate resource!

Resources

Dependent on what basic needs or wellness situation was identified, refer the student to an appropriate resource.
Learn more about which resources apply to which situations in the  Academic Need Resources page of the toolkit.