Faculty and Staff have the opportunity to work with students closely and often notice when something is not quite right. Faculty, coaches, administrators and staff can sometimes help students with personal problems, but sometimes it is best to refer the student to a professional counselor. Here is some information that will help in that decision, or you can call the Counseling Center at 4368 for a consult.
What you may notice if a student is experiencing the early to middle stages of emotional distress:
- Marked decline in attendance and/or academic performance, tardiness, or missed tests/assignments.
- Change in interpersonal behavior – increase in aggressive or disruptive actions, or withdrawal from class, group, or peer activities.
- Mood swings, hyperactivity, noticeable changes in appearance, poor hygiene, reoccurring illness, evidence of crying, alcohol on the breath, apathy, or lower tolerance for frustration.
- Increased use of excuses or continually confused/forgetful about assignments.
- Constant references to working, partying, or non-academic activities.
- Problems with concentration, memory, test taking, or ability to learn.
- Less able to adapt and/or find solutions to problems – thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are described in negative terms (can’t, won’t, don’t, never, should/would/could have).
- Frequent references to problems with academic, family, health, social, financial, relationship, legal, or employment situations.
- Decrease or marked increase in the level and quality of communication with peers or faculty.
Possible interventions for the above stages:
- Choose a way to intervene with the student that is most comfortable for you – request he/she see you after class, or write a note requesting the student schedule a time to meet with you during office hours. You may choose to limit the focus of the meeting to academic/classroom issues or provide the opportunity to discuss personal issues. Treat the student with respect and do not make an issue of the student’s behavior in the open classroom.
- Speak to the student in a private setting; explain your reasons for concern (“I’ve noticed you have been coming late to class and you have one assignment overdue. I’m concerned about how you are handling your responsibility.”). Listen attentively. A few minutes of attention can help clarify what is going on with the student. It also provides an opportunity to give encouragement and provide options on how to resolve the issues the student is facing.
- Listen for and reflect thoughts and feelings (“It sounds like you are having a really tough time getting over the breakup with your girlfriend”), and ask how the student thinks he may deal with the issue (“Have you thought about talking to someone about how you are feeling?” or “What do you think you can do to deal with the situation?”). Resist telling the student what to do. Provide options and allow the student to choose for him/herself. Suggest he/she check out the Counseling Center web site for resource information directed to college related concerns or schedule a time to meet with a counselor.
- Avoid judgments and assumptions. Give the student the opportunity to explain the situation and come up with possible solutions. Attempt to come to an understanding about what the student will do next to improve the situation.
- Follow up. Let the student know you notice an improvement or that you still have concerns because the behavior has not changed in a positive direction.
- Suggest the student access College resources to seek solutions to the problem (Learning Commons, Counseling Center, Dean of Students).
What a student may exhibit if he/she is in the crisis stage of emotional distress:
- Expression of helplessness, lack of control over emotions (sadness, anxiety, anger), or withdrawal/isolation from faculty and peers.
- Confused or disturbing communication patterns (incoherent speech, expressing grandiose beliefs, disorganized or rambling communications).
- Expression (written, verbal, or behavioral) of suicidal or self destructive thoughts/actions.
- Exhibiting challenging, hostile, disruptive, threatening, or violent behaviors and/or communications toward others.
- Loss of contact with reality (visual or auditory hallucinations, expression of thoughts or behaviors not consistent with reality).
Possible interventions for a student in crisis:
A student in crisis needs immediate intervention. The following steps are recommended:
- Remain calm and communicate with the student in a non-threatening manner.
- If necessary, ask that the student wait in a private, safe area (office or classroom).
- Contact the Counseling Center by phone or, if appropriate, escort the student to the Counseling Center.
- If the student is threatening or despondent, call the Campus Safety and Security Office at 3357.
- If the student insists on leaving, allow him/her to do so and contact Counseling Center or Campus Safety and Security Office.
WHEN TO REFER A STUDENT
Refer a student when you are faced with one or more of the following. Whenever possible inform the student of the reasons for the referral.
- The problem is not going away, is getting more serious, or you are feeling less comfortable handling the situation on your own.
- The student is unresponsive to, or resists, your efforts to intervene. The student is unwilling or unable to change.
- The student requests information you are unable to provide.
- Your schedule, stress level, or willingness to help interfere with your ability to provide an adequate intervention.
- You may be unable to be objective because of previous dealings with, or knowledge about, the student.
It is not unusual for students to resist the idea of seeking counseling. If the student chooses not to seek help, he/she cannot be forced. It is best to continue to show concern and encourage the student to seek help from family, friends, Resident Advisor, clergy, or someone he/she trusts who is in a position to help. If you are not sure what to do, consider calling a counselor at the Counseling Center for a consultation.
If a student is willing to seek counseling, you can help in the referral process by:
- Letting the student call from your office to schedule a counseling appointment.
- Informing the student you will have a counselor contact him/her.
- Suggesting the student check out the Counseling Center web site for online screenings and other self help and referral information.
- Giving the student the phone number and location of the Counseling Center and encouraging him/her to schedule an appointment at his/her convenience.
If a student is willing to seek counseling, though wishes to do so off-campus, you can refer him/her to the Community Resources page of the Counseling Center web site or encourage the student to speak with a counselor who can help facilitate the off campus referral.
Information adapted from the Gannon University Faculty Resources Page of the Gannon Counseling Services department.