Rivier University faculty and staff members spend a great deal of time with students. Through class participation, providing assistance on assignments and papers, and the time spent in offices, community members get to know students well and are in a position to recognize when a student has a potential emotional or mental health problem. Counseling and Wellness Services is here to help with questions or concerns on how to best approach these situations; please feel welcome to call and consult with us at 603-897-8251.
Identifying Students in Distress
Students can experience emotional distress for a variety of reasons. Many students are able to get through stressful times on their own without significant impact on their emotional or behavioral functioning. Some students, however, have more difficulty coping with distressing situations and/or struggle with mental illnesses. The following symptoms characterize these situations:
- Uncharacteristically poor work
- Repeated requests for extensions
- Disruptive behavior in class
- Alarming content in written work
- Difficulty concentrating
- Excessive absences
- Difficulty getting along with others
- Social isolation or awkwardness
- Extreme defensiveness
- Inappropriate disclosures and help-seeking regarding personal problems
- Excessive support-seeking, including spending extended time in faculty/staff offices
- Changes in personal hygiene
- Fatigue; falling asleep in class
- Irritability, agitation, or restlessness
- Inappropriate responses and/or disjointed thoughts
- Intense, dramatic, or volatile emotion
- Anhedonia, the loss of interest in pleasurable activities
- Physical harm to self
- Verbal or written references to distress, including suicidal/homicidal thoughts or plans
Helping Students in Distress
If over the course of a semester, concerning changes in behavior become apparent, consider approaching the student to offer support and a referral. The following tips may be helpful:
- Talk to the student privately, rather than in class or around peers.
- Make sure that you have enough time to express your concerns, listen, and make a referral.
- Listen carefully to what the student says. Listening to both the content and the emotion are important and will make the student feel validated.
- Discuss behavioral observations with the student in a direct and honest manner, and express concern in a non-judgmental way. Always respect the student’s value system.
- Help the student develop options for action. This could include a referral to the Counseling and Wellness Center or to other campus resources.
- Remember faculty and staff boundaries. Be clear with the student about those limits and direct them to those with the ability to determine and provide the appropriate assistance.
- Become familiar with campus resources. Knowing about various resources, and sharing this knowledge, may help the student feel more comfortable following through on recommendations.
- Do not keep secrets, or promise to do so, if the student is threatening to harm him/herself or others. Contact Public Safety, the Vice President of Student Affairs, or the Counseling and Wellness Center for assistance.
Counseling at the Wellness Center
The Center offers limited crisis intervention services. Counselors will see students on the same business day for assessment; crisis planning, if appropriate; and to develop an ongoing treatment plan.
Confidentiality laws prohibit Center staff from sharing any information without the written consent of the student. Rest assured that counselors do their best to meet the needs of all students referred to the Center.
Faculty and staff can follow up with students directly. Many students respond well to non-intrusive requests for an update. Keep in mind that mental health counseling is a very personal thing, so students may not want to share any information. If concerns linger, please contact the Center and share your observations.
Faculty and Staff Wellness when a Student is in Distress
Helping a person in distress can be emotionally draining. University faculty and staff members should take care of themselves by seeking help, taking a great, or getting social support.
The Center director is happy to consult with individuals and departments on how to best assist students in distress. Please contact our office at (603) 897-8251 or (603) 897-8351.