Recommending CAPS

A helping hand

Knowing how and when to refer a student to CAPS will be important to ensure they are getting connected to the right resources at the right times. Below are tips and reminders for determining if a CAPS referral is the next best step.

Before you refer to CAPS:

  • Ask and listen for the underlying concerns the person may have.
  • Consider what specific resources may beneficial to the person (supportive family members or friends, a coach/mentor/advisor, LGBTQ+ Center, affinity groups on campus, Office of Student Advocacy and Support, etc.)
    • Ask “Who can you reach out to for support around this situation?”
  • If CAPS is indicated, be prepared to provide brief information around the process to access services. It can help reduce stress or barriers to accessing mental health services when individuals have a general idea of what to expect next.
    • For example, the student will complete paperwork and talk with a counselor to determine what the best next steps are given the person’s needs.
    • See below for processes related to emergency situations.

Follow these tips when referring a student to CAPS:

  • Speak directly in a straightforward fashion.
  • Actively listen to the person and demonstrate care and empathy. Do not attempt to coerce or trick the person into seeking counseling.
  • Make it clear that the recommendation represents your best judgment based on observations of the person’s behaviors.
    • For example: “I care for your well-being, and given what you have shared with me, I think it would be helpful to get you connected to additional resources (insert the specific resource, such as medical care, Interpersonal Violence Advocacy, counseling, etc.).”
  • Be specific regarding the behaviors that raise concerns.
    • “I’ve noticed you’ve stopped coming to class, and when you do attend, you aren’t as actively engaged as you used to be.”
  • Leave the option open for the person to accept or refuse counseling EXCEPT in emergencies (e.g., suicidal or homicidal intent).
    • “I think it might be helpful to consider contacting CAPS for additional support. They can help you connect with a group or counselor to help with your concerns. What do you think?”
  • If comfortable, ask the person’s permission to contact CAPS while they are present. CAPS staff will ask to talk to the person directly.
    • “Would it be ok for us to call CAPS together now? I’d be happy to sit with you while you speak with them if that would be helpful.”
  • Follow up with the person at a later date to indicate a continued interest even if they did not accept the attempted referral.

Intervening around suicide: ART

 Ask directly

  • Talk openly and matter-of-factly about suicide.
  • Be as direct as you feel comfortable being. Be direct, but non-confrontational.
    • For example: “Have you ever wanted to stop living?” or “When people are as upset as you seem to be, they will sometimes wish they were dead. I’m wondering if you might be feeling this way?”
  • If in doubt, don’t wait. Ask directly about suicide.
    • Asking does not increase risk! If you cannot ask the question, find someone who can.

Respond with care and support

  • Give your full attention and provide hope.
  • Emphasize you are working WITH the person.
    • For example: “I’m glad you told me; I want to help.” “I know it can be difficult to talk about these feelings, so I really appreciate your willingness to talk to me.”
    • For example: “Will you let me help you get help?” “Would it be ok for us to call together now?”
  • Avoid rushing to get the person help. Make sure they feel listened to and accepted first.


  • Help the person find appropriate resources.
  • If person is willing, access resource directly in the moment.
  • If person is unwilling in the moment, (and there is not suicidal or homicidal intent) then provide the person information to access the resources independently.
  • See below for information on what to do in an emergency situation.


Referring to a therapist in the community

At times, CAPS may not be the best or only counseling option. There are many qualified therapists in Indianapolis and surrounding communities. We partner with a database called Thriving Campus, where many private practices have listed their information so that someone can make an appointment or learn more about their services. Additionally, Thriving Campus provides help guides to better explain the process of finding a clinician and using their health insurance to pay for mental health treatment. For additional therapist options, including out-of-state providers, check out Psychology Today.

Emergency situations

When a person expresses the intention to act on suicidal or homicidal thoughts:

  • Contact CAPS during business hours. On-call staff can talk with the person directly or with you for consultation on next steps.
  • Outside of CAPS business hours, contact a crisis hotline. They can talk directly with the person or with you for consultation.
    • 1-800-273-8255 (National Suicide Prevention Line)
    • 1-800-442-4673 (National Hopeline Network)
    • Crisis Text Line: 741741
  • Contact law enforcement. When there is immediate risk, this may be the only way to prevent a death.

Remember to work within your comfort level and capacity to help. You can contact CAPS at 317-274-2548 to consult with an on-call counselor or the Behavioral Consultation Team for additional support.

Consider requesting one of these presentations for your unit to increase knowledge and/or skills of how to best provide support.