Red Folder Project

A red folder with support resources on a desk next to a pend and a pad of paper

Red Folder Project

Western's Red Folder Project is a campus-wide initiative to help faculty and staff recognize, respond effectively to, and refer students in distress. The Red Folders are designed to be used as a quick-reference guide when supporting students who are experiencing distress. If you are a Western faculty or staff member and you would like a Red Folder, please contact

Recognize Signs of Distress

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


  • 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)


  • 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)


  • 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

Safety Risk

  • 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

Respond 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.


No concern for the student's immediate safety. However, the student is having serious academic and/or personal issues. I believe they could benefit from additional support and resources. Refer the student to the resources at the bottom of this page.

Not Sure

Safety is not an immediate concern. However, the student is disruptive to the living- learning environment, exhibiting several indicators of distress. I need more guidance. Call the Office of Student Life at 360-650-3706. For additional mental health consultation, call the Counseling and Wellness Center at 360-650-3164.

Yes - Imminent Danger

Safety is an immediate concern. The student is imminently dangerous and actively threatening harm to self or others. Call 911 or University Police at 360-650-3911 without hesitation.  

Refer to Resources

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

Referral Tips

Use Active Listening

Make eye contact and give your full attention. Restate what the student says to make sure you understand what is causing their distress.

Ask Direct Questions

Don’t be afraid to directly ask the student if they are having thoughts of harming themselves or others. By asking, you are NOT instilling the thought.

Give Concrete Help

If comfortable doing so, offer to help them call a campus resource such as the Counseling and Wellness Center or to walk with them to the resource office. You may also share links to the several Counseling and Wellness Center support services included on this page, including Substance Abuse Prevention, Survivor Advocacy Services, and more.

Inform Your Supervisor

Make sure to 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.

Be Aware of 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.


University Police
Emergencies: 911 or 360-650-3911
Non-emergencies: 360-650-3555

Counseling and Wellness Center
360-650-3164 (select option 1 for help after hours)

Office of Student Life

Student Health Center
60-650-3400, select option 1 after-hours

Survivor Advocacy Services

Substance Abuse Prevention

LGBTQ+ Western

Disability Access Center

Residence Life

Veteran Services Office

Student Outreach Services


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