Red Folder Project

A red file folder, computer keyboard, and a blue pen on a desktop

Western's Red Folder Project is a campus-wide initiative to help faculty and staff recognize, respond effectively to, and refer students experiencing a mental health crisis.

What Is a Mental Health Crisis?

A mental health crisis is any situation in which a person’s behavior puts them at risk of hurting themselves or others and/or prevents them from being able to care for themselves or function effectively in the community.

Bookmark This Page for Future Reference

Please bookmark this page, which contains all the information from the Red Folders, to use as a quick-reference guide when supporting students who are experiencing a mental health crisis. 

Request a Red Folder Orientation

WWU departments may request a 30-minute, in-person Red Folder Orientation to better understand the current landscape of mental health in college students​ and to learn how to use the Red Folder to support students in distress.

Request a Red Folder Orientation

Recognize Signs of Distress

Look for groupings, frequency, and severity of behaviors, not just isolated symptoms.

Safety

  • Verbal, written, or implied intent to harm self or others
  • Unprovoked anger, hostility, or physical violence (e.g., shoving, grabbing, assaulting, use of weapon)
  • Academic assignments dominated by themes of extreme hopelessness, helplessness, isolation, rage, despair, violence, self-injury
  • Stalking or harassing
  • Reckless, disorderly, or dangerous conduct
  • Making threats or disturbing comments via email, text, phone calls

Academic

  • Sudden decline in academic performance
  • Frequently missing classes or assignments
  • Disturbing content in writing or presentations
  • Monopolizing class discussion
  • Disrupting class (e.g., yelling or cursing)
  • Confrontations with peers or instructor
  • Repeated requests for special consideration (e.g., deadline extensions, changes in requirements, grade changes)

Physical/Behavioral

  • Increased illness
  • Marked changes in physical appearance (e.g., poor hygiene, sudden weight gain/loss)
  • Uncharacteristic behavior indicating loss of contact with reality
  • Visibly intoxicated or smelling of alcohol or cannabis
  • Rapid speech or excessively anxious or erratic behavior
  • Excessive fatigue or sleeping in class
  • Observable signs of injury (e.g., facial bruising or cuts)

Psychological/Interpersonal

  • Self-disclosure of family problems, financial difficulties, or other personal distress
  • Unusual or disproportionate emotional response to situations
  • Excessive tearfulness
  • Panic reactions
  • Uncharacteristically troubled, confused, anxious, irritable, sad, hopeless
  • Peers expressing concern for student

Respond to the Situation

Help students in distress access Western's support network with these referral tips.

Say What You See

  • Be direct
  • Stick to the facts
  • Don’t make assumptions
  • Describe the changes you have noticed
  • Ask if they are okay
  • Listen!

Hear Them Out

  • Listen!
  • Provide a space to be heard
  • Be curious, ask questions
  • Be present and patient
  • Let them know they are not alone
  • Affirm their feelings

Show You Care

  • Let them know you are there for them
  • Be patient and listen
  • Maintain eye contact
  • Offer help where you can
  • Ask what they need
  • Remove distractions
  • Summarize what they say

Connect to Help

  • Determine the need and resources
  • Reaffirm your support and care
  • Connect them to resources
  • Circle back with the student after referral to support resources to check in

 

Inform Your Supervisor

Alert your supervisor/chair about your interaction. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) permits communication about a student of concern in connection with a health and safety emergency.

Comply With Mandatory Reporting Requirements

If a student discloses an incident of sexual or gender-based harassment or assault, it must promptly be reported to Western’s Title IX Coordinator at 360-650-3307.

Take Care of Yourself

Reflect on your own boundaries, self-care, and support needs. Seek support from colleagues, supervisors, and department heads. Contact HR for training, wellness programs, and employee assistance options.

Refer Appropriately

Is the student an imminent danger to self or others? Does the student need immediate assistance? Use this decision tree to determine the most appropriate response to a student in distress.

YES - Situation Requires Immediate Response

The student is at immediate risk of harming self or others, incoherent or unresponsive, in extreme distress, or causing extreme distress to others. I do not feel comfortable with the student being alone OR I have significant concerns about this student and cannot determine if they are at imminent risk.

ACTION STEPS:

Call 911 or the University Police emergency line at 360-650-3911. 

After the student has been connected to emergency resources, report the incident to your chair/director/supervisor.

NO - But I Would Benefit From a Consultation

This is not an emergency, but the student is showing signs of distress and the issue is impacting multiple areas of their life. I am concerned about them and need guidance to help connect them to support resources.

ACTION STEPS:

Call the Counseling and Wellness Center. Help the student connect with Counseling and Wellness Center support by calling 360-650-3164 and requesting a same-day crisis appointment, available Monday–Friday, 10 AM–4 PM, on a first-come, first-served basis.

Consider the nature of the student’s distress and refer them to context-appropriate resources for additional consultation if appropriate. Refer to the Non-Crisis Resources

When in doubt, if you feel the situation is an emergency or can’t wait, call the University Police non-emergency line at 360-650-3555 to consult.

NO - I Can Handle the Situation Myself

This is not an emergency, but I believe the student is struggling with academic and/or personal issues and could benefit from additional support and resources.

ACTION STEPS:

Refer the student to the Counseling and Wellness Center (360-650-3164) for consultation.

Refer the student to context-appropriate resources for consultation. Refer to the Non-Crisis Resources

When in doubt, if you feel the situation is an emergency or can’t wait, call the University Police non-emergency line at 360-650-3555 to consult.

Crisis Resources

University Police

Emergency 911 or 360-650-3911
Non-emergency 360-650-3555


In the case of immediate danger, call 911 / University Police.

If you suspect that there is a suicide or homicide attempt in progress, University Police is the best resource to assist the student.

Counseling and Wellness Center

360-650-3164
Select option 1 after hours


Student Referral

Refer a student to urgent, same-day support through the Counseling and Wellness Center by calling 360-650-3164 or scheduling online. For after-hours support, call 360-650-3164 and select option 1.

Faculty/Staff Consultation

If you need consultation for a potential student mental health crisis, you can call 360-650-3164 for an urgent, same-day consultation. We can coach faculty and staff but we can't assess student safety without talking directly to them.

National Crisis Support Services

Crisis Text Line

Text HELLO to 741-741

Confidential, anonymous, free, 24/7 service connects texters with volunteer crisis counselors.

988 National Suicide & Crisis Lifeline

988

Confidential, anonymous, free, 24/7 service connects callers with crisis counselors.

Crisis Resources at Other WWU Campuses

For Students at Other WWU Campuses

At any time, students attending classes at WWU campuses in Bremerton, Port Angeles, Poulsbo, Everett, Renton, Burien, or any other WWU location can reach out for crisis counseling at the Counseling and Wellness Center by calling 360-650-3164 (select option 1 if calling after hours).

For ongoing routine services, students at other WWU campuses must opt-in to the Health Services fee (currently $138/quarter). The Counseling and Wellness Center can guide them in this process. 

Another option is for the student to request a same-day appointment through the Counseling and Wellness Center's online patient portal.

Learn About Same-Day Appointments

Schedule a Same-day Appointment

Counseling Support for Students at WWU's Bremerton and Poulsbo Locations

In addition to crisis and ongoing virtual services with Western's Counseling and Wellness Center, students can seek out services locally. 

For in-person services offered through Olympic College at Bremerton, WWU students can call 360-475-7540 or go to Building 4, suite 205 on the OC campus in Bremerton for a crisis appointment. Simply identify as a Western student. Same day in-person and Zoom services are available. 

Counseling Support for Students at WWU's Port Angeles Location

In addition to crisis and ongoing virtual services with Western's Counseling and Wellness Center, students can seek out services locally. 

In Port Angeles, WWU students can also call Peninsula Behavioral Health at 360-457-0431 and ask for service. Reference Western Washington as the payor.

Non-Crisis Support

The resources listed below support students’ mental health but are not equipped to take crisis calls.

Office of Student Life

360-650-3706

The Office of Student Life can help students through the process of taking a leave of absence. This resource should not be used as a crisis resource; however, OSL often supports students in heightened distress.

The Office of Student Life also offers an option on their website to report a Student of Concern. The information you share is submitted to the Office of Student Life and professional staff review the information and will work to coordinate support for the student to ensure their well-being and success. In an immediate crisis, we recommend contacting the crisis resources listed above. However, this is a great resource when working with a student who is not receptive to your offers of help or students that you are generally concerned for but not sure how to help.

Substance Abuse Prevention

360-650-3164

This resource offers support for students around substance use issues. Students can talk with a counselor about their concerns or questions about substance use or attend educational workshops to learn more about reducing risk. This is not a crisis resource, but rather a follow up resource to give students more support. Immediate and 24-hour resources are available on the Substance Abuse Prevention page of the Counseling and Wellness Center website at cwc.wwu.edu/sap.

Disability Access Center

360-650-3083

This service can help students receive accommodations related to classes and class work if their mental health is affecting their school experience. This is not a crisis resource. Learn more at disability.wwu.edu.

Student Health Center

360-650-3400
Select option 1 after-hours

The Student Health Center can assist students with physical health issues that may be contributing to stress. They also offer Behavioral Health services. These can be scheduled by calling the Student Health Center. The Student Health Center is not a crisis resource, but rather a place for students to receive regular follow up behavioral health care or to receive consultation about physical health issues that may be exacerbating their stress.

Academic Advising & Student Achievement Center

360-650-3100

The Academic Advising & Student Achievement Center offers programs to support first-generation, multicultural and non-traditional students. This is not a crisis resource but rather a connection that can be helpful for some students. Learn more at aasac.wwu.edu.

Survivor Advocacy Services

360-650-7982

This is a resource to support students who have experienced sexual or domestic violence. Our WWU Survivor Advocate offers support to affected students in many ways; learn more at cwc.wwu.edu/survivorservices. Many crisis and 24-hour resources are available on the Survivor Advocacy Services page of the Counseling and Wellness Center website at cwc.wwu.edu/survivorservices.

Residence Life

360-650-2960

Students living in on campus housing can utilize their Residence Life staff for help managing a number of situations that can contribute to student stress, including roommate conflicts, requesting an accommodation for a single room, and help with housing insecurity concerns. The student should be encouraged to reach out to their Resident Advisor to start the process. While Residence Life can help students in a crisis if they reach out to their Residence Life staff, this number should not be considered a crisis resource.

LGBTQ+ Western

360-650-7500

This department offers support and community for students who identify anywhere on the LGBTQ+ spectrum. More information about their services and offerings can be found at lgbtq.wwu.edu. This is a great resource for students looking for support and community that affirms their identity. This is not resource to contact in a crisis, but rather a great follow up resource to help a student connect with if needed. Additional local, state, and national support resources for LGBTQ+ students can be found on the LGBTQ+ Western website at lgbtq.wwu.edu/national-resources.

Veteran Services

360-650-3324

The Veteran Services Office can assist students who are in the military or military dependents understand and utilize their military or veteran benefits. This is not a crisis resource but rather a follow up connection to help students make. Learn more on the Veteran Services website at wp.wwu.edu/veteranservices.

Acknowledgements

The Red Folder Project is an initiative of Counseling, Health, and Wellness Services at Western Washington University. The project design is based on the Red Folder Project at Penn State. For more information about Western's Red Folder Project, email cwc@wwu.edu.