Identifying a Student in Distress: A Faculty/Staff Guide


University life can be very stressful for a variety of reasons. Competition and pressure to meet expectations of success may leave our students feeling unprepared for the emotional turmoil of higher education. Some students cope well, while others find that the pressures of university life interfere with their learning.

 

Your role as a Faculty and Staff member

It is important to know that many students first seek guidance from those most available to them...faculty and/or staff members. Below are some guidelines for identifying students in distress:

  • Excessive procrastination and very poorly prepared work, especially if this is different from the student's previous work performance.

  • Poor class attendance with little or no work completed

  • Dependency (i.e. the student that hangs around or makes excessive appointments during office hours)

  • Falling asleep in class and/or marked changes in energy level

  • Poor personal hygiene or changes in personal hygiene

  • Impaired speech or disjointed thoughts

  • Repeated requests for special considerations (i.e. deadline extensions)

  • Threats to or about others

  • Excessive weight gain or loss

  • Expressed suicidal thoughts (i.e. referring to suicide as a current option)

  • Behavior which regularly interferes with effective classroom management

  • Frequent or high levels of irritable or aggressive behavior

  • Inability to make decisions despite your repeated efforts to clarify or encourage

  • Bizarre behavior that is obviously inappropriate for the situation (i.e. talking to someone or something that is not present)

  • Students who appear overly nervous, tense, or tearful

 

Guidelines for Making a Referral

  1. Talk to the student, privately if possible.

  2. Express concern; be as specific as possible in stating your observations and reasons for concern.

  3. Listen carefully to everything the student says.

  4. Repeat the essence of what the student has told you, thus communicating your desire to understand.

  5. Avoid criticizing or sounding judgmental.

  6. Consider the use of the University Counseling Center as a resource and discuss this with your student. Suggest that the student call or come to the UCC to make an appointment. Provide them with the UCC phone number (549-3894) and location at that time. Sometimes it is more effective to assist the student by calling for an appointment while the student is present. When you reach the UCC receptionist, identify yourself as a faculty or staff member and let the student make an appointment. Write down the appointment time, date, and counselor for the student.

  7. If you are concerned about the student's safety, it may be necessary to walk the student to the counseling center.

  8. If the student resists referral and you remain uncomfortable about the student's situation, contact the University Counseling Center and discuss your concern with a counselor.

**  If you feel the situation is an emergency or that it is urgent enough to require immediate attention, please do the following: identify yourself as faculty or staff, tell the receptionist that the student needs to be seen immediately, give the receptionist the student's name. You may also ask to speak with a counselor.