College students today often experience considerable personal and school-related stress. In addition to the pressure to achieve and work out a path to professional success, students must cope with a variety of personal stressors and pressures. Many of these personal stressors are age-related developmental factors, some are situational and some are psychological.
In an attempt to juggle the demands of college and their personal lives, students sometimes act out aggressively or self-destructively. Strong feelings of anger, depression and anxiety are common. Sometimes just one added situation or stressor can precipitate a crisis.
To put this into perspective, studies indicate that in a group of 100 college students with equal numbers of men and women at least:
Other common stressors that students experience include:
Faculty and Staff as Helping Resources for Students
Students experiencing this level of distress may turn to you for help due to your position, status and visibility on campus. Consequently, you may find yourself confronted by a disturbed or disturbing student who needs assistance. Your response in these situations could significantly impact the student’s ability to deal constructively with his/her problems.
The purpose of this information is to offer specific guidelines you can use to help troubled students get the assistance they need. The guidelines are categorized into the following sections: (1) Recognition; (2) Intervention; and (3) Referral.
What you can do
STEP ONE: Recognizing Troubled Students
Everyone feels stressed, depressed or anxious from time to time. However, some behaviors occurring over a period of time can suggest that the problems the student is dealing with are beyond his/her ability to cope. The following three levels of behaviors indicate relative severity of distress.
Level 1: Although not disruptive to others, these behaviors may indicate that intervention is needed:
Level 2: These behaviors may reflect significant emotional distress, a need for intervention, as well as a reluctance or inability to acknowledge a need for personal help:
Level 3: These behaviors usually suggest a student is in obvious crisis and requires emergency intervention:
How You Can Help (Intervention)
In any of these situations your calmness, your willingness to help and your knowledge of whom to call is important. You may choose to approach the student or the student may seek your help with a problem. Below are some suggestions which might be helpful for you in dealing with a troubled student.
Listening and Talking (at all levels):
When in Doubt, Consult
Do not get in over your head! It is easy to become “sucked in” to a student’s crisis. For instance, a student may develop a level of trust with you and then cross a boundary asking you to keep secrets. An example of this would be, “I am thinking about ending it all, but please don’t tell anyone.” Don’t assume you are helping a student by keeping to yourself something disturbing they may have told you. At least call Counseling Services and consult with a counselor about the situation. Any calls to us will be confidential unless we feel the student or someone else is in imminent danger.
Referring to Counseling Services
If you have specific questions about a student, or are unsure about whether or how to approach an individual to make a referral, call Counseling Services at 982-5306. Indicate that you are concerned about a student, and ask to speak to a counselor. The staff member can help you to:
1. Assess the seriousness of the situation;
2. Learn about resources, both on and off campus, so that you can provide the student with potential options for obtaining assistance;
3. Decide how best to initiate the referral process;
4. Clarify your own feelings regarding the student and consider how you can be most effective.
Levels 2 & 3:
** In an emergency situation do not hesitate to contact Campus Safety at 5999.
How to Follow-up After a Referral
Once a referral has been initiated, it may be reasonable and prudent to follow up with the student to determine if he/she actually has attended counseling. Depending on the nature of your relationship with the student, you may also find yourself wondering, “How is it going?” If it is done in a non-intrusive way, such a question may be well received. The student’s rights to privacy, however, should always be respected.
If you wish to share information with Counseling Services about a student you referred, you may do so. Please remember that the counselor-client relationship is confidential, so the counselor will not be able to release information about a specific student without permission from the student unless there is a determination that the student or someone else is in physical danger.
If the behavioral warning signs of student distress are detected early and a positive, appropriate referral is made, there is a good chance that the problem can be addressed effectively. As faculty and professional staff members having daily contact with students, you can make a difference.
SuccessNet has a goal of linking students with services to help them be successful at Manchester University. When concerned about a student, you are also encouraged to refer to SuccessNet at http://www.manchester.edu/successnet.