How Faculty and Staff can Help
Because of your close and frequent contact with students you are
often the first to observe the signs of distress in students. As a
trusted authority figure you can be influential in encouraging a student to
take steps towards better self care and resolution of crises. Simply
showing concern and being responsive can start to make a difference.
You also have multiple roles with students: instructor, mentor, limit-setter,
friend, etc. It is also important to know the limits of your roles and
responsibilities so that you bring other resources to bear, especially at times
Ways Faculty And Staff Can Help
signs of distress
Absences – Absences may range from no attendance at all for an extended
period, intermittent attendance, or chronic lateness. Students who have
not shown up for some time without dropping a course are most often struggling
and feeling immobilized by depressed mood or extremely avoidant due to
excessive anxiety and falling behind in their assignments. It is worth
checking in with the student or contacting their advisor to understand what is
going on for them.
Failure – If a student is obviously challenged by the course or
show a significant decline from their usual level of performance, they are
likely in significant distress. If academic failure also threatens eligibility
to remain in a particular program or loss of an important career goal then
their distress may escalate into a crisis for them.
Concerns – Chronic procrastination and request for special
consideration may signal that the student needs additional academic or
emotional supports. Perfectionistic expectations about performance, test
anxiety, or excessive need for reassurance may indicate high levels of stress.
confused thoughts or behavior – A students comments in class or written
assignments may convey gross problems with perceiving or organizing reality or
a preoccupation with strange beliefs or paranoid feelings.
Appearance and Demeanor – Listlessness, falling asleep in class, poor hygiene,
or appearing unkempt or in an altered state of consciousness may indicate
Emotional Displays – Pronounced irritability, rudeness, hyperactivity, or other
intense emotions (appears very sad or upset) can indicate that the student has
started to feel overwhelmed and is indirectly reaching out for help.
of stress / reactions
can originate from both external events and from internal experiences or
expectations. The reactions to stress can be manifested in physical,
behavioral, emotional, and cognitive signs.
signs of suicidal risk
attentive, concerned response to early signs of distress may be what prevents a
crisis or feelings of hopelessness from developing. Be aware though of
expressions of hopelessness and helplessness that may indicate thoughts about
self harm. The comments, written assignments, or emails from students may
convey such concern. Refer to Warning Signs for
self care behavior
and be responsive
- Find an
appropriate time and place to speak with the student
- Ask the
student to speak to you after class or in office hours. Avoid singling
them out in front of peers.
what you observe
objective by stating what you observe and are concerned about and avoid making
assumptions about why the student is distressed (e.g., I noticed you have
missed class 5 of the last 7 days; you seem pretty upset…, unhappy…, confused
about what is expected…etc.)
your concern for the student
that you are more concerned about their well being than their performance and
that you want to help.
about what seems to be wrong or how you could help.
listen, carefully, sensitively, without judgment. Give them your
the person “as is”, without agreeing or disagreeing with his/her behavior or
point of view.
communicate your understanding of the issue as they describe it, in both
content and feeling.
the person understand that the situation can improve, and that things will not
always seem so bad. Do not try to fix too quickly, criticize, moralize,
correct, or make decisions for the person.
the person to continue to talk about their issues, and remind them that it is
normal to talk with someone he/she can trust when in need of help.
Talking is a natural way to relieve stressful emotions.
student may find it helpful to talk also with their R.A. or Community Director
if they live on campus. They may want to talk with a trusted faculty
member, administrator or staff member. They may want to talk with a
family member, family physician, or family clergy. Or they may be open to
talking with a therapist at Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS). It’s
free and confidential.
Willing to Walk Over to CAPS with the Student
- If the
student appears distressed enough and open to your help, you may want to seize
the moment by offering to walk over to CAPS with them
Available and Follow-Up
open to further discussions, let them know that you are available if they need
you. Check back with the person, because you care about how they are
Your Role and Your Own Limits
role is to provide support and to suggest other options when support is not
enough. Remember your own limits, do not become more involved than your
time and skill permits. If the issues are beyond your ability to help,
you may want to call and talk with a therapist at CAPS about how you can best
with CAPS staff
- Pick up
the phone and call the CAPS Urgent Care and Consultation
Team for advice - 919-966-3658. There are CAPS
therapists on-call daily to take referrals from students or faculty and staff,
or just to offer some consultation to a faculty member with concerns for a
the student to accompany you to CAPS and walk over to the office with them. CAPS
therapists on the Urgent Care and Consultation Team are available daily to meet
with students for same day assistance.
appropriate, have the student call from your office and speak with the CAPS
Urgent Care and Consultation Team. The CAPS therapist may invite the student to
come over to CAPS the same day.
the student to visit CAPS as soon as possible.
The student may walk-in for urgent care M-F from 8am-5pm.
- If the
student is reluctant to seek help (and this is not an emergency)
that seeking therapy is a personal choice
- No one
can make the person's choice for them
force the issue, simply restate your concerns and the available options
that confronting a problem is a positive sign of health and maturity.
validate, and discuss the person's concerns about visiting CAPS
them that the therapists at CAPS have years of expertise in helping college-age people
them that CAPS is free and confidential
friendly, remain open and available to help in the futu
they take some time to think it over
- If this
is an emergency
constitutes an emergency
suicidal attempt, gesture, threat, or stated intention; i.e., behavior posing a
threat to self
homicidal attempt, gesture, threat, or stated intention; i.e., behavior posing
a threat to others
- Loss of
contact with reality
to care for oneself
calm, as this will help you respond more effectively, and also help to reduce
the student’s anxiety or agitation
- If the
student appears to be dangerous to self or others, do not leave the student
arrangements for appropriate intervention or aid
consultation with a CAPS staff member is available at 919-966-3658 Mon – Fri,
8am – 5pm
- You can
walk the student over to CAPS for an emergency consultation or appointment Mon –
Fri, 8am – 5pm
- You can
consult with the Dean of Students Office (919-966-4042) which can be helpful in
locating a student or encouraging them to seek evaluation.
- If this
is after usual office hours, Campus Health Services (919-966-2281) is open until
6pm Mon – Fri and from 8am – 5pm Sat and Sun. You can call 919-966-2281 after
6pm on weekdays and after 5pm on weekends for assistance or go directly to the
UNC Hospitals Emergency Room
- If the
student is unusually aggressive or otherwise unmanageable, the UNC campus
police (919-962-8100) are available to offer assistance