Because you come in frequent contact with many students, you are in an excellent position to observe students, identify those who are in distress, and offer assistance. Your care, concern, and assistance will often be enough to help the student. At other times, you can play a critical role in referring a student for appropriate assistance and in motivating him/her to seek such help. A few guidelines for responding to distressed or distressing students are summarized below:
OBSERVE: The first important step in assisting distressed students is to be familiar with the symptoms of distress and attend to their occurrence. An attentive observer will pay close attention to direct communications as well as implied or hidden feelings.
INITIATE CONTACT: Don't ignore strange, inappropriate or unusual behavior - respond to it! Talk to the student privately, in a direct and matter-of-fact manner, indicating concern. Early feedback, intervention, and/or referral can prevent more serious problems from developing.
OFFER SUPPORT AND ASSISTANCE: Among the most important helping tools are interest, concern, and attentive listening. Avoid criticism or sounding judgmental. Summarize the essence of what the student has told you as a way to clarify the situation; provide hope that things can get better. Encourage positive action by helping the student define the problem and generate coping strategies. Suggest other resources that the student can take advantage of: friends, family, clergy, or professionals on campus.
CONSULT WITH THE UR UCC STAFF: In your attempt to help a student, you may need input from a professional. The counseling staff can suggest possible approaches to take, provide you with support, or intervene directly with students. Call us for assistance at 275-3113.