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Helpling Students in Distress

Our small, close-knit community means friends, classmates, and professors know and support each other. You might notice changes in a student but feel unsure of what’s happening or how to deal with it. Whether you’re a parent, classmate, friend, or professor, you can call the Counseling Center to discuss how you can help a student. We will suggest approaches to offering the Counseling Center as a resource and to dispelling any misconceptions the student might have about counseling.

Counseling can be a valuable resource for students in distress, but the process is more effective if the student decides for her/him/themselves to get help. We don’t recommend pressuring anyone into counseling, and we don’t allow anyone, even parents, to make appointments for a student. A student’s contact with the counseling center is completely confidential.

Signs a Student is in Distress

  • You’re offering more emotional support to a student than you feel comfortable or able, or you feel they’d benefit from talking to someone with professional training.
  • The student seems excessively sad, anxious, or irritable.
  • There’s a marked change in the student’s behavior. A typically strong and engaged student might start procrastinating, turning in poorly prepared work, missing class or meetings, isolating from friends, or avoiding class or group participation.
  • You notice marked changes in a student’s appearance, such as deterioration in grooming or hygiene, or weight loss.
  • It seems likely that use of alcohol or other substances may be interfering with a student’s performance or relationships.
  • There’s a marked and persistent change in energy level. The student might seem listless, falling asleep frequently in class or meetings; or the student might seem to be on overdrive, with unusually accelerated speech and activity.
  • The student’s behavior regularly interferes with the effective management of your class, program, or office.
  • The student seems unusually dependent, helpless, or hopeless.
  • The student’s thoughts, speech, or actions seem bizarre or unusual.

How to Talk to the Student

  • Talk to the student in private.
  • Inform the student of your concern in a straightforward, matter-of-fact manner. Give specific examples of the behavior patterns you’ve observed that lead you to feel concerned.
  • Listen carefully.
  • Avoid criticizing or sounding judgmental.
  • Mention the Counseling Center as a resource for students who are dealing with significant stress or experiencing problems. Offer to walk the student to the counseling center.
  • If the student is resistant to seeking help, listen to her/his/their concerns, correct misconceptions or look for alternatives, but don’t pressure students into counseling if they prefer not to take this step.
  • Make sure the student knows how to make an appointment, or direct her/him/them to the Counseling Center Web site. Remember, you won’t be able to make an appointment for the student.

After a student makes the decision to come to counseling, we abide by our confidentiality statement.