Awareness of Cultural Differences in Helping Students

Race, ethnicity, country of origin, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and other dimensions of difference are important to keep mind as you help a distressed student. Reactions to racism, sexism, homophobia, disability status, and other discriminatory attitudes can affect the way in which emotional distress is manifested and also can impact help-seeking behavior.

General barriers to seeking help — e.g., denial, fear of being labeled in a negative way, lack of information about campus resources — may be even more troublesome for students from underrepresented groups. Communicating support, concern, and understanding is critical in reaching students who may feel isolated and marginalized.

Your sensitivity to the unique needs of and resources available to international students, LGBTQ+ students, students of color, students with disabilities, non-traditional-aged college students, and other underrepresented groups can be important in helping students from different cultures get assistance.



Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity


Social Class

    Generational Status

    • First Generation College Students
      The feelings and perspectives of students who are the first in their families to attend college


    Campus Resources

    Responding to Students with Disabilities

    Students with physical disabilities present unique classroom access and accommodation needs associated with limitations in mobility, speaking, hearing, and/or vision.

    Students with medical disabilities may have difficulty with participating in their academic programs due to the disorder or the ongoing treatment protocol.

    Students with learning disabilities have neurological impairments that interfere with and slow down information processing, memory and retrieval, and output. These disabilities can impact reading, writing, math, attention, concentration, and/or overall organization.

    Students with psychiatric disabilities have a chronic and debilitating psychological diagnosis that interferes with their ability to participate in a routine educational program. Examples of diagnoses in this category include Bipolar Disorder, Major Depression, Anxiety Disorders, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

    Students with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) may experience inattentive, hyperactive, and/or impulsive behaviors due to a dysfunction of the central nervous system. These behaviors may compromise an individual’s social, vocational, and academic performance. These behaviors look different in males compared to females.

    Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder experience difficulties with communication, social interaction, abstract reasoning, and expression of emotions. Learning disabilities, anxiety, or hyper- or hypo-sensitivity might co-exist with autism.

    Some students with disabilities have registered with Disability Support Services (DSS) and received accommodations. Other students may not realize that they have a particular problem and that treatment and accommodations are available.

    What you can do:

    • Speak to the student in private about concerns you have
    • Treat each student with sensitivity and respect
    • Refer students to DSS to discuss options if they are not already connected or encourage students to check out the TASSL program (PDF) for additional academic support
    • Be open to working with the student on how to best support their disability


    • Using patronizing language with the student
    • Underestimating or questioning the student’s abilities or the stated disability
    • Making assumptions about the student’s understanding of the academic limitations imposed by the disability
    • Assuming the student qualifies for accommodations without DSS verification

    How can I Support Mental Health Regularly?

    • Promote mental health awareness in your classroom through class dialogue, on your syllabus (reflecting your approach to students’ mental health; include contact info for resources available to students), embedded in assignments, in your conversations with students, etc.
      • You may consider including an additional statement on your syllabus like the following:
        • “If you think you need an accommodation for a disability, please let me know at your earliest convenience. Some aspects of this course, the assignments, the in-class activities, and the way I teach may be modified to facilitate your participation and progress. As soon as you make me aware of your needs, we can work with Disability Support Services to help us determine appropriate accommodations. I will treat any information you provide as private.”
      • Along with this, you may consider verbalizing in your first class:
        • “Any student who believes that he/she/they has/have a disability and may need an accommodation for this course, please make an appointment to see me during my office hours.”
      • Around midterms or finals, remind students about the importance of stress management (study breaks with friends, etc.) and the resources that are available to them (stress-relieving campus programs, CCSD, etc.)
    • Show support through attending or volunteering at mental health-related programs on campus
    • Promote mental health-related programs through mentioning them in class or providing extra credit for attending