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
- Suicidal thoughts
- Threats of violence
Life Threatening Emergencies
For example, if the student has already made a suicide attempt or is threatening immediate harm to self or other.
- 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
Mental Health Emergencies That Are Not Immediately Life Threatening
For example, if the student has indicated thoughts of suicide or homicide.
- If between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. call 518-564-3086 for immediate assistance or walk the student to the Counseling Center. A counselor will assess the student for safety. Keep the student in your office when you make the call.
- Contact University Police at 518-564-2022 to conduct a welfare check in the following situations:
- It’s after 4:30 p.m. or on a weekend.
- The student is not currently in your office or classroom.
- The student refuses to go directly to the Counseling Center.
To Make a Referral for Non-Emergency Concerns
Except in the case of emergencies, the student should retain the option 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 (describe specific concern)... 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 delaying graduation will not push them over the edge.
If you have reason to believe that giving a student certain academic information might place the student in danger of suicide, 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
- The 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 CARE Committee by contacting any of the members. (See names listed on slide handout.) The CARE Committee meets weekly to discuss students of concern with a goal of ensuring that appropriate interventions and resources are put in place to assist students who are experiencing various types of distress: academic, personal, mental health, etc.