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Information for Faculty and Staff

Welcome to the Student Counseling website. In your professional role you may encounter students in distress or struggling with mental health concerns. The information below provides guidance that you may find helpful as you navigate these situations.

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How do I refer a student for counseling?

If you are concerned about a student and wish to refer them for counseling, please urge the student to contact Student Counseling at 315-464-3120 to schedule an appointment. Please note that no one but the student can schedule an appointment for that student. If you wish, you may contact Student Counseling to notify us that you have referred a student for services.

I'm concerned about a student but don't know if a referral is needed. What can I do?

Clinical staff are available to talk with you about your concerns about a student and to help guide your response. Referrals to SCS are appropriate when…

  • The student exhibits behavior or other signs of a potential mental health issue (see below).
  • The student’s academic functioning appears impaired by the problem.
  • The problem is more serious than you feel comfortable handling.
  • You have talked with the student but feel additional assistance is indicated.
  • The student is not willing to talk with you about a problem.
  • You are not sure if your teacher-student relationship may affect your ability to handle the problem.
  • The student requests information or help that you are unable to provide.
  • You are feeling burned out by a student repeatedly seeking your help.

What are signs of student distress?

Social withdrawal, declining academic performance, significant difficulty concentrating, changes in hygiene, disjointed thoughts, jumbled speech, chronic irritability, frequent tearfulness, unusual lack of participation, irrationality, unusual changes in energy, and threatening statements (e.g., I don't care anymore, I just feel like I can’t go on and don't want to) all are signs that may indicate that the student is in significant distress.

What do I say to a troubled student?

We recommend that you set up a time to meet with individually with the student. Avoid discussing your concerns in front of the student’s peers, as this can lead to feelings of humiliation and increased defensiveness in the student.

In that meeting, be specific when stating your concerns. Stick to describing the behaviors or changes that concern you and avoid labeling the student or asking about mental health diagnoses or conditions. Listen carefully, exude a caring style, and avoid any statements that may sound judgmental or dismissive. You may find that your contact alone is all the student needs to address the concerns you have; however, if you feel your contact with the student had limited effect or you believe the student needs more help, consider a referral to SCS. If you suspect a student may be suicidal, it is imperative to ask gently but directly whether the student is thinking of killing or harming themselves. If the student reports plans for suicide or self-harm, immediate contact with University Police (x44000) is warranted.

What if I feel uncomfortable referring a student for mental health care?

If referring a student to Student Counseling is awkward for you, it may help to talk with SCS staff about the matter. Approaching the student from a collaborative/problem-solving perspective (e.g., I've noticed that you’re having some difficulty and I am wondering what you might think about talking with a university counselor), will likely reduce your own discomfort, as well as the student’s. If you feel you are simply too uncomfortable to make a referral, enlist the help of a colleague or your Dean to meet with you and the student to address your concerns.

What if a student is reluctant to seek help?

Often students are afraid to get help and are especially concerned about confidentiality. We recommend that you ask about such fears if you decide to make a referral. Simply acknowledging and normalizing the student’s fears may alleviate them. Students may feel that their need for assistance is an indication of personal failure. In this case, remind your student that facing one’s problems is a sign of strength, rather than weakness, and that even the most successful students and professionals have needed help at times.

Students sometimes have concerns about the confidentiality of services. You should inform students that services offered through Student Counseling are confidential and that no one on or off-campus will be informed of their participation in the service.

Cost is often another concern. If this is the case, remind the student that services through Student Counseling are free.

What if a student refuses help?

Some students could benefit from help but resist making an appointment. It is important to remember that you can care about the well-being of your students, but cannot force them get help. If you have concerns about a student’s mental health, document your concerns and efforts to support the student and refer them for help and consider talking about your concerns with your Chair or Dean. Remember that even if a student refuses to seek help at first, they may later change their mind.

If you encounter an actively suicidal student you should immediately contact Public Safety or, if off-campus, dial 911, even if the student resists such help.

In cases where a student is acting in a very unusual, worrisome, erratic or disruptive manner, you should immediately contact Public Safety, the Dean's office, and/or the Campus Awareness and Riske Evaluation Team.

What if I'm concerned about a student's behavior or mental health but don't know where to refer him/her?

If you are concerned about a student who is displaying disruptive, erratic behavior or signs of mental health problems, consider contacting the Campus Awareness Risk Evaluation team to discuss your concerns and get help for the student.

What is the Campus Awareness and Risk Evaluation team?

The “CARE” committee is composed of faculty and staff from across the University. This team receives and responds to reports of concerning student behavior and works to ensure a proper response to students whose behavior may be disruptive or harmful to themselves or others. In cases deemed appropriate for CARE involvement, the team will assign members to meet with the student, determine a course of action, and provide a report to the Dean of Student Affairs. See this page for more information.

A few words about confidentiality...

Information students share with SCS is legally privileged and kept confidential. Faculty and staff may consult with Student Counseling about their concerns about students; however, state law and ethical practice guidelines prevent us from sharing information about students without their written authorization.

Thank you for helping us to better serve our students.