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Information for Faculty & Staff

Helping Students in Distress

The college years mark an important period of personal, developmental and psychological growth. During this period, it is common for students to experience various levels of distress ranging from mild to severe. Knowing when to intervene and how to intervene is critical. As a faculty or staff member, you may be one of the first to notice when difficulties are negatively impacting a student’s mental health and well being.

Signs of Distress

  • Declining grades
  • Inconsistent attendance
  • Avoidance, withdrawing
  • Alcohol and/or drug use
  • Exaggerated emotional responses inappropriate to the situation/environment
  • Marked changes in physical appearance
  • Significant interpersonal difficulties
  • Disruptive behavior
  • Loss of contact with reality
  • Self-Injury
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Threats of violence

For Life Threatening Emergencies

  • Call 911
  • Assure safety for the student as well as yourself and/or other students
  • Please stay with the student until assistance arrives unless safety is compromised
  • Keep all forms of written documentation

For Mental Health Emergencies That Are Not Life Threatening

  • Call (518) 564-3086 during business hours or walk the student to the Counseling Center
  • Call us directly at (518) 564-3086 or have the student call us from your office
  • Agree that the student will contact our office on their own to make an appointment

To Make a Referral for Non-Urgent Concerns

Except in emergencies, the option should be left open for the student to accept or refuse a referral for counseling

In talking with the student, it is best to express concern and focus on how the behavior of concern is impacting the student’s academics. “I’m concerned about you because... I think you may benefit from talking to someone at the Counseling Center. I can help you get connected with them if you like. It is completely up to you.”

In our experience, it is always best for students, even those with serious difficulties, to receive accurate feedback on their academic work. In the majority of instances, giving students honest feedback regarding inappropriate behavior, poor or failing grades, and/or stopping them from graduating will not push them over the edge.

If you have reason to believe giving information would place the student in danger, arrangements can be made to assure a student’s safety when they learn bad news. If you are concerned about a specific student, call the Center. Our staff is available to consult with you about how to best proceed in these situations.

Other Options for Student Mental Health Concerns

  • Consultation
  • We Care Committee

You can call the Counseling Center and arrange for a consultation with one of our therapists on staff. We are always willing to think through with you possible options for how to intervene when a student is having difficulties. One possible option is for our staff to contact the student and offer counseling services. Our preference, however, is for a person who has a connection with the student to discuss the behavior/s of concern and suggest counseling as an option. Since counseling is a voluntary process, students are more likely to follow through with counseling when things are handled in this manner.

You can make a referral to the We Care Committee by contacting the VP for Student Affairs, Bryan Hartman: [email protected]. The We Care Committee meets weekly to discuss students of concern with a goal of ensuring appropriate interventions and resources are put in place to assist students who are experiencing various types of distress: academic, personal, mental health, etc.

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