Helping a Student in Distress
If you encounter a student who may be in distress, there are things that you can do to help as a faculty or staff member. Check out our Mental Health Resource Card for information about typical concerns for University of Rochester students, symptoms of distressed or distressing students, and responding to distressed or distressing students.
Click here for tips on helping a student in distress.
Referring A Student
When a Student Needs Counseling
Some signs that indicate that a student may be experiencing more stress than they can handle:
- Marked decline in quality of course work, class participation, quality of papers or test results; increased absence from class or failure to turn in work.
- Prolonged depression, suggested by a sad expression, apathy, weight loss, sleep difficulties, or tearfulness.
- Nervousness, agitation, excessive worry, irritability, aggressiveness, or nonstop talking.
- Bizarre or strange behavior, speech, writing, or thinking.
- Extreme dependency on faculty or staff, including spending much of his/her spare time visiting during office hours or at other times.
- Marked change in personal hygiene.
- Talk of suicide, either directly or indirectly, such as, “I won’t be around to take that exam anyway” or “I’m not worried about getting a job, I won’t need one.”
Making a Referral
You should consider referring a student for psychological counseling when you believe a student’s problems go beyond your own experience and expertise or when a student indicates she/he is looking for someone to talk to.
One way of introducing the topic of a referral to UCC is to summarize for the student what you see as the content of the problem. Point out the emotional responses that you have heard from the student, perhaps with an expression of concern. For example, “You sound very upset about that. I have found that other students who have felt that way have benefited from talking to someone at UCC. How would you feel about that?”
If a student is reluctant to seek counseling, explain to the student that counseling is not only for very disturbed people. Most students come to UCC because they are unhappy with what is happening in their lives. (We see approximately 1000 students per year.) Counseling provides a chance to explore feelings and solve problems with the help of an objective, sensitive and concerned listener.
Counseling works best when the student actually wants help. Even though you believe counseling may be helpful to the student, coercing a student to go to UCC does not work. Maintain your positive relationship with the student and do not force him/her to contact us. If you are wondering about the seriousness of a problem or if a student is ambivalent, call a UCC staff member to discuss what next steps you might take.
Once the student has agreed that counseling might be useful, there are several possible steps to take, depending on the student’s attitude and the urgency of the situation.
- Give the student information about UCC and urge him/her to call for an appointment.
- Invite the student to call us from your office right then, excusing yourself to allow the student privacy while on the phone.
- Offer to accompany the student yourself to UCC and to provide a UCC staff member with some background information.
Once a student contacts UCC, an appointment will be scheduled. The appointment will usually take place within a few days of the time the student makes contact, depending largely on the flexibility of the student’s schedule. In an emergency, as defined either by you or by the student, arrangements will be made to see the student more promptly.
After the Referral is Made
It is reassuring to know that a student you have referred to UCC has actually made and kept an appointment. The best way to achieve this reassurance is to ask the student directly. This is also a way of showing continuing concern for the student. We will urge the student to confirm this with you. Concurrently, but secondarily, we will seek the student’s permission to contact you directly for this purpose.
There will be times, however, when the student will not want to share this information with you. In these instances, both UCC and you must respect the student’s wish for confidentiality, despite the uneasiness this creates.
If you have concerns about a friend, classmate or student that you would like to discuss with a mental health professional, feel free to contact us for a consultation at (585) 275-3113.