Red Folder program helps faculty, staff respond to students in distress

Red Folders
Red Folders have been produced with the help of the Parents’ Club to help faculty and staff support students in distress.

Stanford is continuing to strengthen its framework of support for student mental health and well-being by piloting a new resource through Vaden Health Center. Called the Stanford Red Folder, it serves as a guide to help faculty and staff respond to and assist students in distress.

According to John Austin, special assistant for mental health and well-being at Vaden Health Center, the folder was created after university employees expressed concern about how to properly respond to a student showing signs of personal hardship.

“We heard from faculty and staff that sometimes they are just not sure what to say or what is appropriate or inappropriate because no one wants to further traumatize someone in distress,” he said. “So we came up with a process to help them.”

That step-by-step process is outlined in the Red Folder. It describes the indicators of distress, which can include repeated absences from class, marked changes in physical appearance and expressions of hopelessness. The folder then provides a blueprint for how to respond and offers tips for having a tactful conversation that builds trust. The folder also contains a comprehensive list of resources to which the faculty or staff member can connect the student, depending on the specific needs and circumstances. Those resources fall into three main categories:

  1. Social-connection resources for students having a hard time but whose safety is not at risk. These resources include Stanford’s many community centers.
  2. Specialized resources for students who show signs of distress and could use more thorough help from places such as Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) or the Office of Alcohol Policy and Education.
  3. Urgent resources for students who exhibit dangerous or threatening behavior to themselves or others and need more immediate support.

Austin said that Vaden has printed copies of the Stanford Red Folder for use by all university staff and faculty, thanks to support from the Stanford Parents’ Club.

“We have 7,000 hard copies being distributed across campus that should be making their way to users,” he said, adding that the folder is also available online and can be downloaded in PDF form. The online version will be updated throughout the year, while the hard-copy version will be updated annually.

Read more in Stanford Report.