Faculty and Staff Consultation
Students in Distress - How Can We Help?
Student Care Referral Team (SCRT), formerly known as Student of Concern Review Team is an interdisciplinary, administrative team that through referrals identifies students who may be experiencing difficulty coping with their environment and/or life circumstance, assesses those referrals for needs and risk, and develops intervention and outreach plans in collaboration with Student Support and Case Management.
The Jed FoundationFaculty Guide to Supporting Student Mental Health
Faculty and Staff as Helping Resources
Faculty and staff are in a unique position to identify and help students who are in distress, especially those who cannot or will not turn to family or friends. Your expression of interest and concern may be a critical factor in saving students' academic careers or even their lives.
To support your efforts, here is practical information about how to assist students most effectively and, when necessary, how to access resources such as Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS).
- Marked changes in academic performance or behavior
- Poor performance and preparation
- Excessive absences or tardiness
- Repeated requests for special consideration (extend deadlines, postpone tests)
- Unusual or changed pattern of interaction
- Avoiding participation
- Dominating discussions
- Excessively anxious when called upon
- Exaggerated emotional response, obviously inappropriate to the situation
- Concentration problems
- Depressed or lethargic mood
- Hyperactivity or very rapid speech
- Unexplained crying
- Irritability or angry outbursts
- Swollen or red eyes
- Change in personal hygiene or dress
- Dramatic weight loss or gain
- Violent or threatening behavior
- Strange behavior indicating loss of contact with reality
- Incoherent, disorganized or rambling speech
- Disoriented (unaware of current location, date, time...)
- Expressed feelings of helplessness or hopelessness
- Overt references to suicide
- Isolation from friends or family
- Homicidal threats
**NOTE: References may occur in students' verbal or written statements (such as essays or papers).
- Take it seriously.
- Ask directly about suicidal thoughts and plan. Ex. - "You seem so upset and discouraged that I'm wondering if you're thinking about hurting or killing yourself?"
- Be available to listen, to talk, but know your limits and refer.
- Validate the depth of feeling. DON'T minimize by saying, "Everything will be better tomorrow."
- Call for immediate assistance if necessary. (See list of emergency resources at bottom of page.)
- Call CAPS: 785-864-CAPS (2277)
- Talk to the student in private when you both have the time and are not rushed or preoccupied.
- Give the student your undivided attention.
- If you initiated the contact, express your concern in behavioral, nonjudgmental terms. "I've noticed you've been absent from class lately and I'm concerned," rather than "Where have you been lately? You should be more concerned about your grades."
- Let the student talk.
- Listen to thoughts and feelings in a sensitive, non-threatening and respectful way.
- Communicate understanding by reflecting or repeating back the essence of what the student has told you.
- Try to include both content and feelings. Ex. "It sounds like you're not used to such a big campus and you're feeling overwhelmed."
- Find out what steps have already been taken to resolve the situation, and the outcome.
- Find out who knows they're having a hard time, to get a sense of available social support.
- Assure the student that things can be different.
- Help the student realize there are options.
- Suggest resources: friends, family, religious professionals and other professionals on campus.
- Express your willingness to help the student explore options and resources.
- The problem is more serious than you feel comfortable handling.
- You are extremely busy or stressed, and are unable or unwilling to handle other requests for help.
- You have helped as much as you can and further assistance is needed.
- You think your personal feelings about the student will interfere with your objectivity.
- The student admits there's a problem but doesn't want to talk to you about it.
- The student asks for or needs information or assistance that you're unable to provide.
- Validate concerns about seeking help and normalize the process. This may be especially helpful for international students whose cultures may have different views of psychological treatment.
- State that seeking help is a sign of strength and courage, not weakness or failure.
- Point out that seeking help for other problems (medical, legal, car problems) is considered good judgment and an appropriate use of resources. For example, "If you had a broken arm you'd go to a doctor rather than try to set it yourself."
- Confirm that there are ways the student would like his/her life to be different, and that a counselor can help him/her make changes.
- Referring to career counseling or to a physician may be an appropriate first step.
- Reassure students that counselors at CAPS work with people with a wide range of concerns.
- Tell students that successful students seek support at CAPS, including students with high GPA's, student and Greek leaders, award winning undergraduate and graduate students, and star athletes.
- Problems need not reach crisis proportions for students to benefit from professional help. Suggest that it is often much easier to work on problems if they are addressed before they reach crisis level.
- Let students know they can speak to a therapist on a one-time basis without making a commitment to ongoing therapy. Consider a one-time consultation appointment.
- Students may be relieved to hear that any contact and information they share is kept strictly confidential within CAPS and will not be disclosed to parents, faculty, other University offices, or even you, except with the student's written permission.
- Offer to contact CAPS and provide background information to help facilitate the referral.
- Consider offering to accompany student to CAPS, if comfortable for you and if situation warrants it.
- Assess the situation, its seriousness and the potential for referral.
- Learn about resources, both on and off campus, so you can suggest the most appropriate help available when talking to the student.
- Find the best way to make the referral, if appropriate.
- Clarify your own feelings about the student and consider ways you can be most effective.
- Discuss follow-up concerns after the initial action or referral.
The Verbally Aggressive Student
Verbal aggression usually results when students are in frustrating situations that they believe are beyond their control. Typically, the anger is not directed at you personally.
- Acknowledge their anger and frustration. Ex. "I hear how angry you are."
- Rephrase what they are saying and identify their emotion. Ex. "I can see how upset you are because you feel your rights are being violated and nobody will listen."
- Allow them to ventilate and tell you what is upsetting them.
- Reduce stimulation.
- Invite the person to your office or other quiet place IF you feel comfortable doing so.
- Tell them you are not willing to tolerate their verbally abusive behavior. Ex. "When you yell and scream at me that way, I find it hard (impossible) to listen."
- Tell them they are violating your personal space and ask them to please move back (if they are getting physically close.)
- Help them problem-solve and deal with the real issues when they calm down.
- Get into an argument or shouting match
- Escalate the situation by becoming hostile or punitive yourself
- Press for an explanation for their behavior
- Look away and not deal with the situation
The Violent or Physically Destructive Student
Violence, because of emotional distress, is infrequent and typically occurs only when the student is completely frustrated and feels unable to do anything about it.
- Prevent total frustration and helplessness by quickly and calmly acknowledging the intensity of the situation. Ex. "I can see you're really upset and really mean business and have some critical concerns on your mind."
- Explain clearly and directly what behaviors are acceptable. Ex. "You certainly have the right to be angry but hitting or breaking things is not O.K."
- Stay in open areas.
- Divert attention when all else fails.
- Get necessary help (other staff, KUPD, CAPS).
- Ignore warning signs that the person is about to explode
- Yelling, screaming, clenched fists, and statements like, "You're leaving me no choice."
- Threaten, dare, taunt or push the person into a corner
- Touch the person