Women's Health Information for Faculty and Staff
College students often encounter a great deal of stress during the course of their academic experience. While many students cope successfully with the challenges, an increasing number of students find the various pressures of life unmanageable. As members of the faculty and staff, you are in an excellent position to recognize behavioral changes that characterize distressed students.
Recognizing a Student in Distress: In general, consider referring students for counseling if their problems are compromising their ability to take pleasure in life or to function academically, personally or socially. The following examples may be helpful in assessing a student:
- Significant changes in student’s observed or reported behavior: noticeable deterioration in quality of class participation or academic work; inability to concentrate; repeated absences from class; continual seeking of special accommodations; social withdrawal or isolation; impulsive behaviors; excessive sleep or insomnia; significant change in appetite; excessive use of alcohol or drugs.
- Significant changes in students emotional state: sadness, weepiness, or depression; extreme emotional reactivity; expressions of hopelessness or worthlessness; anxiety or panic attacks; outburst of anger; mood swings; excessive dependency.
- Recent stressful event or trauma: death of a loved one; break up of a romantic relationship; physical or sexual assault; change in family relationships; serious illness.
- Suicidal risk factors: expresses feelings of hopelessness, helplessness or lack of control; disturbing material in academic assignments; someone close to the student has committed suicide; reckless behavior; giving away possessions; history of previous suicide attempt(s).
Responding to Signs of Distress: At times, in any attempt to reach or help a troubled student, you may become more involved than time or skill permits. It is important to know the boundaries and limitations of your intervention. The following suggestions may help you feel more comfortable and facilitate a helpful intervention with the student. Please utilize the Resource Guide: Working With Students That Need Assistance.
- Talk to the student in private when you are not rushed and are able to give your undivided attention.
- Express your concerns directly, specifically, and honestly.
- Listen carefully to the student’s thoughts and feelings. Try to convey your understanding by repeating the essence of what the student has said. Avoid judging or criticizing even if the student asks your opinion.
- Respect the student’s perspective even if you do not agree with it.
- Convey the hope that things will get better in the future.
- Refer the student to resources on campus, or to family, friends, or clergy.
- Offer to help the student call Women’s Health Center (574-284-4805) to arrange an appointment, or offer to accompany the student to Women’s Health.
- Trust your instincts if you believe a student is in crisis and immediate professional assessment is needed.
- Tell resource persons if you have concerns about a student’s safety.
Consultations: If you are unsure of how to proceed in a specific situation involving a student in distress, we encourage you to consult the Resource Guide: Working With Students That Need Assistance or contacting Izzy Fourman, Director of Women's Health. A brief conversation may help you sort out the relevant issues, explore ways to approach the student, and identify appropriate resources. Izzy is available to speak with you and advise you regarding specific situations but is not able to provide information regarding a specific student. Only with the student's written permission are we able to acknowledge their contact with Women's Health or share information.