Many times, a faculty member is the first person to notice a student may be in distress. This is particularly true for faculty who teach courses with small class size and/or a significant writing or discussion component. While there is no definitive list of signs that indicate a student is in distress, any changes that appear as a marked departure from the norm may suggest your student is struggling with something. These include attendance and timeliness problems, frequent requests for extended deadlines or other special considerations, sleeping during class, hygiene problems, reactivity in mood, a change in quality and/or content of written work, unusual behavior during class, changes in weight, and references to suicide, homicide, or extreme isolation or hopelessness.
If you are concerned about a student, please do not keep it to yourself. You may be the only person who notices, and the student's only bridge to assistance. If you choose to speak with your student directly, remember to be gentle, nonjudgmental, and validating. Describe concretely what you have observed and why you are concerned. Offer your help, either by walking to the counseling center with your student or assisting your student in calling for an appointment. Avoid making promises of confidentiality, because in the case of an emergency you will not be able to keep this promise. If you are concerned your student may be thinking about suicide, directly ask this question. Asking the question will NOT put the idea in your student's head, or push him or her to act on suicidal thoughts. If your student declines your offer of help or insists there is no problem, do not press the issue. Emphasize your future availability and then give your student the space to cope with the problem on his or her own. However, if you believe the situation may be an emergency, please call us at 860.685.2910 and allow us to assess and manage the situation.
If you remain uncertain about how and whether to speak to your student, please feel free to call us at the counseling center first. You may give us your student's name if you wish, but you may also keep this information to yourself. We will be happy to talk over the situation with you, and offer suggestions for approaching and engaging your student. Whatever your concerns may be, you are not alone. We are here to help.
Contact us at 860.685.2910