How Can I Help?

The BEAR Project logo

At Brown, we use the B.E.A.R. Project model as a way to help community members feel comfortable providing each other with support. The B.E.A.R. Project has four easy to remember steps that all of us can use when we are trying to provide support to students.

Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) (401-863-3476) sponsors B.E.A.R. Project trainings for students, staff and faculty throughout the school year. Members of the Brown campus are welcome to join such trainings and can also utilize this website as a resource in the moment when needed.

CAPS created the B.E.A.R. Project after meeting with over 1000 members of the Brown community to discuss suicide prevention between June 2015 and June 2018. 

Here are the four B.E.A.R. Project steps:

Brown is a vibrant community where each person tends to hold multiple roles and responsibilities. It is easy to go through your day moving from task to task, without paying attention to the people around you. We encourage you to build time into your day to connect with each other (for example, students meeting for a meal, staff getting to know students, faculty leaving time in their schedule after a class in case a student wants to check in).

If you notice that something feels off in one of your interactions, we encourage you to listen to that feeling and use it as a cue to engage.

You can’t tell how a person is doing or how to help just by looking at them.

If you feel worried about a student, we encourage you to attempt to engage with them in order to gain an understanding of what they are going through. Focusing your attention on a student who is upset will likely give you clues of how you can best provide support, and the student is likely to feel more hopeful just because someone is making the space to pay attention to their experience.

Helpful “engage” hints:

  • Listen more than talk.
  • Use nonverbal cues (for example, nod your head, point your body towards the person) and verbal cues (such as “It sounds like…”)  to show you are interested in their experience.
  • Avoid giving quick solutions.

If you notice a student who is upset, by interacting with the student, you are well on your way to being seen as support.

While engaging with a student, we encourage you to ask open-ended questions about your concern:

  • "How are you doing?"
  • "Can you tell me more about that?"

It can be useful to promote the student’s sense of agency by asking how you can be helpful:

  • "Would it be okay if we talk about potential resources that may be helpful for you?"

If you have any sense of worry about the student’s safety, we encourage you to ask directly about your concern:

  • "Are you thinking about killing yourself?"
  • "Have you been having thoughts of harming yourself?"

It is a myth that asking a person directly about suicide makes them more likely to consider suicide as an option. Asking a student directly about suicide is useful because it will likely:

  1. Provide relief for the student who has been thinking about suicide but has not been able to talk to anyone about the experience.
  2. Give you, the helper, information about your next step. When you ask directly about suicide, the student may reassure you that you don’t have to worry (“No, I’m stressed, but it’s not that bad”), or the student may open up and indicate that suicidal thoughts are part of their experience. Both answers will help you understand together what next steps would be useful.

Being part of the Brown community means you are not alone. When you engage with a student who is upset and are able to understand their experience more, you may realize that a student could benefit from being connected to campus resources.

If you are in the rare moment where a student is expressing that they are suicidal, you and the student can then talk about the best way to help them connect with Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS). During weekday hours, you are welcome to walk students over to CAPS or help them call CAPS to schedule an appointment. The CAPS after-hours resource is also available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year by following the prompt at the CAPS main phone number, 401-863-3476.

Even if a student is not expressing safety concerns, it can be useful to consider together whether the many academic, wellness or social resources on campus may be useful. You can find a list of campus resources here