As a staff or faculty member, you may be the first person students turn to when they need help. You are also in an excellent position to recognize certain distress signals that indicate the possible presence of emotional trouble or pending crisis. Your role in expressing concern and assisting a student in getting help can be quite significant in his or her life.
HOW CAN WE HELP YOU
Cedarville University Counseling Services is available to help you with students in distress, both by consulting with you about the best course of action and by working directly with the student once a referral has been made. Some students will come directly to you because they see you as someone they trust – someone who cares about their well-being and with whom they feel safe. Many times, the conversation(s) with you will be of great benefit to the student and will meet his or her needs.
In some cases, however, you may feel that you do not have the time or expertise to provide all the assistance the student needs. In these situations, knowing what to look for and how to address it with a student can be important.
IDENTIFYING STUDENTS IN DISTRESS
Sometimes, students may demonstrate unusual, disturbing, or markedly changed behavior in or out of your classroom that causes you to feel concerned about them. A student in distress may be first identified because of changes in behavior, attitude, or academic performance. These changes may be quick and dramatic, or they may involve slow but steady deterioration over time. Because it is normal for all students to have periods of time where they are less participatory in class, feel depressed or anxious, or experience a decline in academic performance, it may be helpful to watch for an overall change in the student’s normal patterns rather than react to an isolated change. That said, any talk of death or suicide should be addressed immediately, even if it is an isolated incident.
Changes to Watch for:
- Excessive absences from class
- Multiple requests for special consideration in the absence of supporting data (e.g. extensions on assignments or accommodations for class lectures without a documented learning or other disability)
- Failure to turn in assignments or take tests
- Changes in class participation
- Decline in academic performance
- Failure to keep scheduled appointments with you
- Dramatic changes in weight or physical appearance (including personal hygiene)
Unusual or New Mood/Behaviors
- Outbursts or other disruptive behaviors
- Excessively rapid speech or increased activity level
- Tangential or irrelevant speech/writing
- Social or interpersonal withdrawal
- High levels of anxiety, sadness, stress, or despair
- Frequent requests or demands for your time
- Poor academic performance
- Complaints of inability to concentrate
- Multiple physical complaints
- Excessive exercise habits
- Sleeping in class
When in doubt about how to talk to a student, or when you encourage a student to seek help but he or she is unready or unwilling to do so, please feel free to call us (937-766-7855). A conversation with one of our counselors may assist you in clarifying the need to intervene, determining the appropriate means of intervention, creatively problem-solving how to approach a challenging student/situation, or providing other referral options. During the academic year, we are open from 8:00 AM-5:00 PM Monday-Friday. If you are concerned that a possible disability may be interfering with a student’s work, please call The Cove (Academic Enrichment Center) at 766-7437.
AFTER HOURS EMERGENCIES OR CRISES
An emergency is a situation that is life threatening or involves imminent danger or other extreme circumstances. In these situations, call 911 immediately to access emergency services. This brings help to the student in the quickest, safest avenue possible. If a call to 911 is made, contacting Campus Safety to make the on-duty officer aware that the call was made is also helpful since the officer will likely be the first to arrive on the scene.