Guide To Assist Disruptive Or Distressed Individuals

Guide To Assist Disruptive Or Distressed Individuals

Ohio State's Counseling and Consultation Service and Employee Assistance Program developed this information guide to help you assist anyone in the university community experiencing distress or causing a disruption.

When in doubt, call 911!

Important Numbers

Emergency: 911

University Police: 614-292-2121

Helpful resources - Student Life Departments

Counseling and Consultation Service (students)


Counseling and Consultation Service (students) website
Disability Services


Disability Services website
Housing Administration


Housing Administration website
Multicultural Center


Multicultural Center website
Student Advocacy Center


Student Advocacy Center website
Student Conduct


Student Conduct website
Student Health Center


Student Health Center website
Student Life, Office of the Vice President


Student Life website
Student Wellness Center


Student Wellness Center website
Sexual Civility and Empowerment Program


Sexual Civility and Empowerment Program website

Additional Resources

BRAVO (for cases of violence against LGBTQIA)


BRAVO website
Campus Suicide Prevention Program


Campus Suicide Prevention Program website
Employee Assistance Program


Employee Assistance Program website
Office of Institutional Equity (to report all forms of harassment, discrimination and sexual misconduct)


Office of Institutional Equity website
Military and Veterans Services

614-247-VETS (8387)

Military and Veterans Services website
Psychological Services Center

Psychological Services Center

at Ohio State Harding Hospital

Psychological Services Center website Ohio State Harding Hospital website
Sexual Assault Response Network of Central Ohio


Sexual Assault Response Network of Central Ohio website

If you are concerned for your safety or that of others, CALL 911 immediately.

  • If you are concerned about the individual's self-harm, call Suicide Prevention Services: 614-221-5445

If you are NOT concerned for your immediate safety or that of others:

  • Discuss the situation with the person to address the inappropriate behavior.

  • Consider asking any disruptive individual to leave the room.*

  • When the situation allows…

    • If the individual is a student, call Student Conduct: 614-292-0748

    • If the individual is a faculty or staff member, call the Office of Human Resources: 614-292-2800

  • Suggest the following:

    • STUDENTS can contact Student Life's Counseling and Consultation Service: 614-292-5766

      • Counseling is confidential.

      • Counseling does not affect academic records.

      • Counseling sessions are free to registered Ohio State students.

  • FACULTY OR STAFF can contact the Employee Assistance Program: 1-800-678-6265

    • Counseling is available to university employees, their immediate families and domestic partners.

    • Counseling is not a part of personnel or human resource files.

    • Five free counseling sessions are available; counseling is confidential and voluntary.

*Helpful hints on understanding and addressing distressed or disruptive behavior are given below.

24-Hour Crisis/ Suicide Prevention Services

Ohio State Suicide Prevention's REACH Training Program

Nationally, suicide is the second leading cause of death in young adults aged 19-24. Suicide is preventable, however, and you can help prevent a suicide by learning warning signs and how to intervene.

Ohio State Suicide Prevention is a free resource. Its REACH training program is a short, easy and free program available to all Ohio State affiliated organizations, units, departments and individuals upon request. For further information and/or to schedule training, call 614-688-5829 or email

24-Hour Crisis/ Suicide Prevention Services

Suicide Prevention Services: 614-221-5445

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255 (Veterans, press 1 to talk with a veteran)

Call for yourself or for someone else. Services are free and confidential. Available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

ASSISTING Disruptive Individuals

What is Disruptive Behavior?

Behavior that interferes with students, faculty or staff and their access to an appropriate educational or work environment is considered disruptive.

What are Some Examples of Disruptive Behavior?

  • Yelling or screaming

  • Persistent and unreasonable demands for time and attention

  • Words or actions that intimidate or harass another

  • Words or actions that cause another to fear for his/her personal safety

  • Threats of physical assault

What is my role?

Disruptive behavior should not be ignored. Remain calm. Remind yourself that it is not about you; it is about the situation. If you feel safe in doing so tell the individual that such behavior is inappropriate and there are consequences for failing to improve the disruptive behavior. Many disruptive situations involve anger. Recognize that the period of peak anger usually lasts 20-30 seconds. Although this may seem like an eternity in the throes of the situation, often it is best to “wait it out” before progressing unless there is an immediate threat to your safety or that of others.


Disruptive behavior should be documented. Write a factual, detailed account of what occurred. Use concrete terms. Share the documentation appropriately


  • DO listen through the anger. Use active listening.

  • DO acknowledge the feelings of the individual.

  • DO allow the person to vent and tell you what is upsetting to him/her. Use silence to allow the person to talk it out.

  • DO set limits. Explain clearly and directly what behaviors are acceptable: “I will be willing to speak with you as soon as you lower your voice.”

  • DO be firm, steady, consistent and honest.

  • DO focus on what you can do to help resolve the situation safely.

  • DO make personal referrals. Give a name of an individual when possible, and call ahead to brief the person.

  • DO maintain clear and consistent boundaries and expectations.

  • DO report the behavior to University Police and/or Student Conduct or Human Resources.


  • DON'T interrupt, particularly during the first 20-30 seconds of peak anger.

  • DON'T minimize the situation.

  • DON'T get into an argument or shouting match.

  • DON'T blame, ridicule or use sarcasm.

  • DON'T touch.

  • DON'T ignore warning signs that the person is about to explode.

  • DON'T ignore your own limitations on established boundaries.

(Adapted from materials from The University of Colorado at Boulder and Penn State University)

If you feel threatened or endangered, call 911!

Referrals & Resources

Emergency: 911

University Police: 614-292-2121

Student Conduct: 614-292-0748

Employee Assistance Program: 1-800-678-6265

ASSISTING Distressed Individuals

What is my role?

You might be in a good position to spot someone who may be emotionally distressed. While some of this is expected, especially during stressful times of the year, you may notice someone acting in a way that is inconsistent with your normal experience with that person. You may be able to be a resource in times of trouble, and your expression of interest and concern may be critical in helping the individual re-establish emotional equilibrium. You also may be able to alert the university so that an appropriate intervention can be made.

Possible Signs of Distress
  • Marked change in performance or behavior

  • Excessive absence or tardiness

  • Trouble eating and/or sleeping

  • Disruptive behavior

  • Undue aggressiveness

  • Exaggerated emotional response that is obviously inappropriate to the situation

  • Depressed or lethargic mood

  • Hyperactivity or very rapid speech

  • Marked change in personal hygiene

  • Excessive confusion

  • Dramatic weight loss or gain

  • Dependency (individual hangs around or makes excessive appointments to see you)

  • Behavior indicating loss of contact with reality

  • Feelings of helplessness or hopelessness

  • References to suicide

  • References to homicide or assault

  • Isolation from friends, family or classmates

  • Giving away prized possessions

  • Preparing for death by making a will and final arrangements


  • DO be mindful of cultural norms.

  • DO speak with the individual privately.

  • DO express your concern in behavioral, nonjudgmental terms.

  • DO tell him/her you are willing to help.

  • DO listen carefully to what he/she is troubled about.

  • DO help him/her explore options.

  • DO suggest resources.

  • DO make referrals to the appropriate campus department.

  • DO point out that help is available and that seeking such help is a sign of strength and courage, rather than of weakness or failure.

  • DO maintain clear and consistent boundaries and expectations.

  • DO recognize your limits.

  • DO enlist the help of others as appropriate.

  • DO document the interaction or incident.


  • DON'T promise confidentiality.

  • DON'T judge or criticize.

  • DON'T ignore the unusual behavior.

  • DON'T make the problem your own.

  • DON'T involve yourself beyond the limits of your time or skill.

  • DON'T be afraid to ask for help.

  • DON'T minimize the person's problems.

(Adapted from materials from The University of Colorado at Boulder and Penn State University)

If you feel threatened or endangered, call 911!

Referrals & Resources

  • In a crisis situation, call the Police at 911.

  • To consult regarding a student, call Student Life Counseling and Consultation Service at 614-292-5766. Refer to

  • Student Life:

  • To consult regarding a faculty or staff member, call:

  • Ohio State Employee Assistance Program: 800-678-6265 (or visit

  • Office of Human Resources, Employee and Labor Relations:

  • Ohio State Department of Public Safety: