Faculty/ Staff Resources
College students experience stress on a daily basis balancing academics with social, family, and work demands. While many of our students cope effectively with these stressors, others struggle. Some may feel overwhelmed and experience a crisis that affects their ability to succeed in the classroom as well as to effectively function in the other areas of their life. As a faculty or staff member, you often are the first to notice when a student may be in trouble. Your willingness to get involved may be a critical factor in helping students succeed in our college environment.
"How do I help?" We hope the following guidelines serve as a resource for working with students in distress. Please consult with Counseling Services staff at any time if you have questions or concerns. We can be reached at (440)-826-2180.
Recognizing the Signs of Students in Distress
Stress happens for all students, but when reactions are prolonged or severe this may signal a student who is having trouble coping. Some warning signs to pay attention to:
- Abrupt decline in academic performance
- Excessive absences from class
- Unusual or changed patterns of interaction in class
- Disruptive in class
- Depressed behavior (e.g., lack of energy or motivation, deterioration in personal hygiene)
Warnings signs that indicate a more serious problem that requires immediate attention:
- Inability to communicate clearly due to garbled speech or disconnected thoughts
- Loss of touch with reality (e.g., student reports hearing voices or seeing things that do not exist)
- Suicidal talk (e.g., "I want to die", "I have no reason to live")
- Threatening to seriously harm another
Responding to students in distress in non-emergency situations:
- Speak to the student in private
- Focus on the behaviors that you have noticed are different (e.g., "I have noticed that you have been arriving late to class for the last week. Is something going on?")
- Listen with sensitivity and non-judgment
- Make a referral to Counseling Services (see Effective Referral Strategies)
- Consult with Counseling Services staff at any time (826-2180)
Responding to students in distress in emergency situations:
- Consider safety first. If you have concerns about your safety or the safety of others, call 911, then Safety and Security (826-2000)
- Remain calm
- Listen to the student and contact an appropriate person or department. This may be another faculty or staff member, department head or supervisor, Safety and Security or Counseling Services staff
- If possible, do not leave the student alone. If for some reason you must leave the student, have someone else stay with the student until you return or help arrives.
Effective referral strategies to Counseling Services:
When you determine that a student would benefit from speaking with a counselor, please consider the following:
- Be direct ("From what you have shared with me, this situation seems complicated. I think it might be helpful to talk to a professional counselor.")
- Point out the benefits of attending counseling (seeking help as a strength, working toward positive behavior change or self-improvement).
- If the environment permits, offer the use of your telephone to make the first appointment.
- Consider offering to walk student to Health Center.
- Refer to a specific counselor or counselors (our website has a staff bios page).
- Follow-up to show your continued concern for student welfare