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College life can be stressful and at times overwhelming for undergraduate and graduate students. Faculty, staff, family, and peers often play critical roles in identifying and interacting with students in distress. The information that follows is designed to assist in the identification of emotionally distressed students and their referral to appropriate resources on and off campus. If you wish to consult with a counselor, or are interested in having a member of the Counseling Center staff speak to your department or student group about any of the material on this web site, please contact us at 232-2468.
Observe. Look for emotional and behavioral changes. Take note of behavior that appears strange, inappropriate, or unusual. Pay attention to both verbal and nonverbal communication.
Trust Your Gut. If you sense that something is wrong there is a good likelihood something is wrong!
Reach Out. Ask to talk with the student in private at a time when you can both focus on the problem and do not feel rushed. Be direct in expressing your concerns in a nonjudgmental manner based on your observations and perceptions.
Listen. Encourage the student to respond to your concerns. Listen to both thoughts and feelings. Let the student talk.
Offer Support and Assistance. Your care, interest, and listening may prove pivotal in encouraging a distressed student to seek assistance. Help the student identify resources to address their concerns. Respect the student’s beliefs and values even if they are different than your own. Be candid with students about your limits to assist them.
Instill Hope. Let the student know that things can be better.
Consult, Consult, Consult. The student may present with concerns or situations that leave you feeling “in over your head?" Utilize Counseling Center staff to discuss how to best respond to the student and their situation. This step is especially critical when a student may need emergency care (violent or disruptive behavior, loss of contact with reality, disturbed or incoherent speech, suicidal or homicidal thoughts or actions). In these situations, it is important to (1) remain calm, (2) contact the appropriate agency and have someone stay with the student while you are doing this, and (3) stay with the student until assistance arrives.
Follow Up. It is often helpful to arrange a time to follow up with the student after you make a referral. This helps communicate your continued concern and interest.
Maintain boundaries. Continue to maintain clear and consistent boundaries and expectations with the student in your staff or faculty role.
Students can schedule an appointment by calling the Counseling Center at 232-2468 or walking into the Center at 410 Bowman Hall. In most cases, it is best for students to schedule their own appointments. Students are initially scheduled for brief triage appointment to assess their situation and offer treatment recommendations. Many students are then referred for individual or group counseling in the center. Some students are referred to other campus or community resources to better meet their individual needs. If you are particularly concerned about a student, you may encourage them to use your office phone to schedule while they are still with you, or walk them to our office in 410 Bowman Hall. In more urgent situations, we make every attempt to meet with the student the same day.
Faculty and staff are often concerned about what happens to students after they refer them to the Counseling Center. This certainly is an understandable, caring reaction. However, it is also important to know that professional counselors must adhere to legal and professional confidentiality standards. This means that:
As noted in the general guidelines above, it is recommended that referring persons follow-up with the person referred to show continued interest and concern. This is the best way to find out what happens after a referral and also ensures a wider net of support for the student of concern.
You should seek emergency assistance when a student is acting in a manner that evidences potential harm to self or others. Contact one of the resources below, note that you are dealing with an emergency situation, and report the specifics of the situation as clearly as possible.
Other emergency/crisis resources can be found at The Emergency/After Hours Page.