When students are struggling during the academic year, faculty and staff play an important role in helping those in distress. Typical signs of students who may be in distressed include grade problems, poor academic performance, inability to concentrate, excessive absences, unusual or marked changes in behavior, poor hygiene, substance abuse, depressed mood, threatened or actual violence, aggression, poor reality testing, and suicidal or homicidal threat. For more detailed information please read our “Students in Distress” brochure.
As a faculty or staff member, you are in an excellent position to recognize a student in distress. Your ability to understand the signs of emotional distress and your willingness to acknowledge your concerns directly with the student are key. In fact, students often report that this initial contact is one of the most significant factors in successfully confronting their problems.
In general, you should consider referring students to the Counseling Center if their problems have compromised their ability to function academically, personally, or socially.
Signs of Distress:
- Increased procrastination and/or lower quality of work
- Reduction in class attendance
- Lack of energy
- Social withdrawal
- Crying in the office and/or classroom
- Disturbing material content in academic assignments
- Inability to concentrate in class
How to Intervene
- Talk to the student in private
- State specific reasons for concern
- Listen carefully
- Avoid criticizing or judging
- Discuss with the student a referral to Counseling Service (ext. 4454)
Ways you can assist a student who is reluctant to seek counseling
It can be helpful to remind students that a situation does not have to reach crisis proportions to benefit from professional help. Acknowledging, validating, and discussing the student's fears and concerns about seeking help may also be useful. Additionally, you can emphasize that, although some people feel that seeking counseling is an admission of weakness or failure, it in fact takes considerable courage and integrity to acknowledge one's limitations and seek help from others. You also may offer to accompany the student to the counseling office or to assist them in setting up an appointment.
What if the student refuses help?
Participating in counseling should always be a personal choice. If the student resists referral and you remain uncomfortable with the situation, you can contact Counseling Services at 203-576-4454 to discuss your concern. However, if you are concerned about the student's immediate safety or the safety of others, you should call Campus Security at 203-576-4911.