If you choose to approach a student you are concerned about or if a student reaches out to you for help with personal problems, here are some suggestions which might make the situation more comfortable for you and more helpful for the student.
Talk to the student in private when both of you have the time and are not rushed or preoccupied. Give the student your undivided attention. It is possible that just a few minutes of effective listening on your part may be enough to help the student feel cared about as an individual and more confident about decision-making.
If you have initiated the contact, express your concern in behavioral, non-judgmental terms. For example, "I've noticed you've been absent from class lately and I'm concerned," rather than "Where have you been lately? You should be more concerned about your grades."
Give Hope. Assure the student that things can get better. It is important to help the student realize there are options, and that things will not always seem hopeless. Suggest resources: friends, family, clergy, or professionals on campus. Recognize that your purpose is to enable the student to consult appropriate resources, not to solve the student's problem.
Avoid judging, evaluating, and criticizing even if the student asks your opinion. Such behavior is apt to push the student away from you and from the help he or she needs. It is important to respect the student's value system, even if you disagree.
Maintain clear and consistent boundaries and expectations.It is important to maintain the professional nature of the faculty/student or staff/student relationship and the consistency of academic expectations, exam schedules, etc. Course withdrawal can be arranged through the Academic Affairs Office; other forms of personal assistance can be arranged through the University Counseling Center.
Refer. In making a referral, it is important to point out that: 1) help is available, and 2) seeking such help is a sign of strength and courage rather than a sign of weakness or failure.
It may be helpful to point out that seeking professional help for other problems (medical, legal, car problems, etc.) is considered good judgment and an appropriate use of resources. For example, "If you had pneumonia, you would go to a doctor rather than trying to tough it out." If you can, prepare the student for what he or she might expect if your advice is taken. Tell the student what you know about the University Counseling Center.
Follow-Up. Arrange a follow-up meeting with the student to solidify his or her resolve to obtain appropriate help and to demonstrate your commitment to assist in the process. Later check with the student to see if the referral appointment was kept and to hear about the experience. Continue to provide support while the student takes the appropriate actions.
Due to confidentiality laws, the Counseling Center cannot confirm or deny that the referred student has met with us unless the student has given us a release of information. Therefore, it is best for the faculty or staff member to follow-up with the student.
Consult. You may call the Counseling Center at 203.596.4585 for a consultation about the student. We will be glad to talk with you about your hunches, worries, and concerns. The Counseling Center, of course, accepts referrals of distressed students, but the student needs to be willing to attend counseling.
You may call the Erica Peryga, the Dean of Students at 203.596.8527 or the Crisis Cell at 203.228.8706 (in a crisis situation) to let her know of your concern. This office is often in the best position to gather information from a number of different sources and alert appropriate University personnel. The Dean of Students can also initiate a psychological evaluation, if there is sufficient concern.
If you have immediate concerns about a student's safety, stay with the student and notify the Dean of Students Office (203.596.8527 or 203.228.8706), the Counseling Center (203.596.4585), and/or Campus Safety (203.596.4501) immediately. These offices will then implement the College's suicide prevention policy. An immediate evaluation by mental health professionals will be arranged.
A student whose behavior has become threatening, violent, or significantly disruptive may need a different kind of approach. When in doubt regarding the appropriateness of action, contact the Dean of Students (203.596.8527 or 203.228.8706), Campus Safety (203.596.4501) or the Counseling Center (203.596.4585).