Every year, students, faculty and staff contact Counseling Services concerned about individuals in distress.
It is important for everyone to know there are resources on campus to support you should this situation occur. Counseling Services are available to help both students in distress, and people in contact with those individuals. Below you will find a discussion of options on how to deal with someone in distress and a list of common signs of distress.
Friends, roommates, classmates, and floor mates are frequently in the most direct position to identify students in distress. These people are often seen by students as the first point of contact in obtaining advice and support. Your expression of interest and concern may be critical in helping someone. Counseling Services (CS) are available to all members of the UB community. For consultation regarding these issues, feel free to call Amy Sceery, PhD (Director of Counseling Services) at extension 4454. Be assured that all calls will be considered private and confidential with few exceptions (see Confidentiality Page).
When dealing with someone in distress, the options you choose depend upon the urgency of the situation. You may choose not to get involved with someone who is having a difficult time but seems able to cope. If the issue seems difficult but manageable, you might offer to help. If you determine the situation is more urgent, you might decide more assistance is needed; such as a referral to Counseling Services. You may also choose to submit a Student of Concern report form to alert the University’s Behavioral Intervention Team of your concerns. In an emergency situation, please call Campus Security at (203) 576-4911 or dial 911.
A referral for counseling can be made when you believe someone’s problems go beyond your ability and experience or when you simply feel uncomfortable helping the person with an issue. Counseling Services may be contacted either because of the way the student’s problems are interfering with his/her life, or because the student’s behavior raises concerns. Please note that frequently, the person will appreciate the support and feel relieved that there is help available.
The following are examples of behaviors that may warrant a referral to Counseling Services:
- Appearance of depressive symptoms: social isolation or withdrawal, sad expression, apathy, tearfulness, hopelessness, fatigue
- Excessive nervousness or worry
- Agitation, irritability, aggressiveness, non-stop talking, and/or inability to sleep
- Person seems to be in a pattern of perpetual crisis
- Bizarre behavior or speech
- Marked change in eating habits resulting in weight loss or gain
- Extreme dependency on faculty or staff; including spending too much time visiting during office hours
- Writing or language that demonstrates disconnected or morbid content, or comments that raise concern
- Noticeable decline in quality of work and class participation, increased absences, or failure to turn in work
- Marked change in personal hygiene and/or disheveled appearance
- Talk of suicide, either directly or indirectly (e.g. “I won’t be around to take that exam anyway.” or “I’m not worried about getting a job, I won’t need one.”)
- Evidence of self-harming behavior (e.g. cuts or burns on arms or legs)
- Signs of intoxication in class, decreased ability to focus, misperception of facts and reality
- Frequent complaints of physical symptoms (e.g. headaches, upset stomach, neck/back pain, etc.)
Remember, you may be the only person that a distressed individual has confided in. Do not assume other people will take responsibility for getting that person help. If all of us do our part to help someone in need, UB will be a better place for everyone.