Identifying Students at Risk

An Informative Guide for Concerned Faculty Members
At one time or another, everyone
feels depressed or upset. However,
there are three levels of student
distress which, when present over a
period of time, suggest that the
problems are more than the
"normal" reactions to life stressors.
Level 1 Distress
Although not disruptive to others in your class or elsewhere, these
behaviors in students may indicate that something is wrong and
that help may be needed:
Serious grade problems
Unaccountable change from good to poor performance
Change from frequent attendance to excessive absences
Change in pattern of interaction
Marked change in mood, motor activity, or speech
Marked change in physical appearance
Level 2 Disturbance
These behaviors in students may indicate significant emotional
distress or a reluctance or an inability to acknowledge a need for
personal help:
• Repeated request for special consideration
• New or regularly occurring behavior which pushes the limits and
may interfere with class management or be disruptive to others
• Unusual or exaggerated emotional response
Level 3 Dysregulation
These behaviors may show in many cases that the student
is in crisis and needs emergency care:
• Highly disruptive behavior (hostility, aggression, etc.)
• Inability to communicate clearly (garbled, slurred
speech, disjointed thoughts)
• Loss of contact with reality (seeing/hearing things that
are not there, beliefs or actions at odds with reality)
• Overt suicidal thoughts (suicide is a current option)
• Homicidal threats
• Individuals deficient in skills that regulate emotion,
cognition, self, behavior and relationships
What You Can Do To Help
Responses to Level 1/Level 2 Behavior
Calmly talk to the student in private when you both have time.
Express your concern in non-judgmental terms.
Listen to the student and repeat the gist of what the student is saying.
Clarify the costs and the benefits of each option for handling the problem from
the student's point of view.
Respect the student's value system.
Ask if the student is considering suicide.
Make appropriate referrals if necessary.
Make sure the student understands what action is necessary.
Responses to Level 3 Behavior
• Stay calm.
• Call emergency referrals – dicussed later in this presentation.
Talking to Student
About Your Concerns
• Privacy – Talk in private when you and the student
have time and are not preoccupied.
• Honesty – Be frank about your concerns, sharing
what you observe without judging.
• Limits – Be clear about the limits of your ability to
help. It is not your role or responsibility to
counsel students, but you can help them get the
support they need.
Talking to Student
About Your Concerns
• “Sounds like you are really struggling with________. Many
people find it helpful to talk with someone in confidence who
is outside of the situation.”
• “I want to help you get the help you need and deserve”
• “Give counseling a try. You have nothing to lose.”
• “Meeting with a counselor is confidential and will not go on
your academic record.”
• “These are services your tuition pays for; take advantage of
Talking to Student
About Your Concerns
• Suggest that a student seek help instead of telling or
ordering them to.
• Inform the student of our counseling services and tell them
that students visit the Counselor for a variety of reasons.
• Timing – If a student is receptive to seeing a counselor,
provide them with our phone number, offer them access to
your phone so they can make an appointment, and/or
accompany them to the Student Counseling Center.
Do's and Don'ts
Responding to Suicidality
• DO show that you take
the student's feelings
• DO let the student know
that you want to help.
• DO listen attentively and
• DO reassure that with
help (s)he will recover.
• DO stay close until help
is available or risk has
• DON'T try to shock or
challenge the student.
• DON'T analyze the
student's motives.
• DON'T become
• DON'T react with shock
or disdain at the
student's thoughts and
• DON'T minimize the
student's distress.
When to Make a Referral
Even though a student asks you for help with a
problem and you are willing to help, there are
circumstances when you should suggest other
• You are not comfortable in handling the situation.
• Personality differences may interfere with your ability to help.
• You know the student personally (friend, neighbor, friend of
a friend) and think you may not be objective enough to help.
• The student is reluctant to discuss the situation with you.
• You see little progress in the student.
• You feel overwhelmed or pressed for time.
How to Make a Referral
To the Student:
• Be frank with the student about the limits of your time, ability, expertise,
and/or objectivity.
• Let the student know that you care and think (s)he should get assistance
from another source.
• Assure them that many students seek help over the course of their
college career.
• Try to help the student know what to expect if (s)he follows through on
the referral.
Consider these questions before making the referral:
• What are the appropriate and available resources for the student?
• With whom would the student feel most comfortable?
• Who will make the initial contact, you or the student?
Consultation is Available
If you have concerns about a student, counselors at the
Counseling Center are available for consultation.
Some of the ways we might help include:
Assessing the seriousness of the situation
Suggesting potential resources
Finding the best way to make a referral
Clarifying your own feelings about the student and the
The Counseling Center
• Any currently enrolled student at SRU may use the services
of the Center. Students are encouraged to make their own
appointments if possible. Because many students use our
services, there may be a wait, from a few hours to a few
days, before seeing a counselor.
• In urgent situations, however, we will assist any student
immediately. Be sure to tell the person scheduling the
appointment that the situation is urgent.
• For more information about the SRU Student Counseling
Center, please visit out website :
In an Emergency
Try to stay calm. Find someone to stay with the student
while calls are made.
For students expressing a direct threat to themselves or others, or who act in
a disruptive, a bizarre, or a highly irrational way, call:
University Police (x3333)- For assistance and/or protection.
Counseling Center (x2034)- For emergency consultation, evaluation, treatment,
and referral.
For students who exhibit severe anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, or any
other intense emotional disturbance, and for whom no immediate harm
seems likely, call:
Counseling Center (x2034) - For consultation, evaluation, treatment and
More Tips for Faculty
Personal Contract
• Model and expect students to utilize good stress management
skills (adequate sleep, diet, etc).
• Check in with your students regularly and create a climate where
it is safe for students to come to you if they are getting
• Share some of your own struggles as a student and professional:
failure  success stories
• Understand that some students lack basic life skills and are
playing catch-up in many areas.
More Tips for Faculty
In the Classroom
• Create opportunities for connections in your classroom and work
to engage the withdrawn or socially isolated student.
• Phrase feedback positively whenever possible.
• During critiques, emphasize the purpose, process, and benefit of
them. Seek to normalize the experience by using examples, such
as an invited upperclassman’s work.
• Contact the Counseling Center to speak with your class regarding
self-care, stress management, test anxiety, depression or other
pertinent topics.
More Tips for Faculty
Outside the Classroom
• Refer students to programs that will help them improve study
skills and time management.
• Consider adding a class service opportunity as a requirement or
for extra credit to further build community/connections.
• Encourage student involvement in events and campus clubs.
• Encourage students with disabilities to self-identify and utilize
• Engage with students at activities and on campus – they will feel
• Consult with the counselors as needed for feedback. We are here
to support the student and you!
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