College students may encounter a great deal of stress during their academic experience. Although many students cope successfully with the demands of college life, for some the pressures can become overwhelming and unmanageable. Students may experience stressors as they attempt to perform well academically, begin their career path, navigate interpersonal relationships, and as they balance academic, work, and family obligations.
As a faculty member interacting daily with students, you are in an excellent position to recognize potential problems. You are likely to be the first person a student reaches out to for help. Your ability to recognize the signs of emotional distress and to make an initial intervention can hae a significant impact on a student's future well being.
Common Causes of Emotional Distress
- Relationship Breakup
- Family Conflict
- Loss of a Loved One
- Divorce of Parents
- Feeling Lonely
- Academic Pressure or Failure
- Serious Illness or Injury
- Difficulty Adjusting to University
- Not fitting in with Peers
- Unplanned Pregnancy
- Religious Conflicts
- Sexual or Physical Abuse of Assault
- Identity Confusion
- Drug/Alcohol Abuse
- Career Indecision
- Loss of Goal or Dream
- Occupational Setback
Common Warning Signs of Student Distress
- Career and Course Indecision
- Excessive Procrastination
- Uncharacteristically Poor Preparation or Performance
- Repeated Requests for Extensions or Special Considerations
- Disruptive Classroom Behavior
- Excessive Absence/Tardiness
- Avoiding or Dominating Discussions
- References to Suicide or Homicide in Verbal Statements or Writing
- Asking Instructor for Help with Personal Problems
- Dependency on Advisor
- Hanging Around Office
- Disruptive Behavior
- Inability to Get Along with Others
- Compliments from Other Students
- Change in Personal Hygiene
- Dramatic Weight Gain or Loss
- Frequently Falling Asleep in Class
- Unruly Behavior
- Impaired Speech
- Disjointed Thoughts
- Intense Emotion
- Inappropriate Responses
- Difficulty Concentrating
- Physically Harming Self
What Faculty Can Do
If you have noticed any of these warnings signs, you are faced with the decision of whether or not to intervene. Although your faculty appointment is demanding, your interest in your student's well being can make an important difference to a person in distress.
If you decide to intervene, here are some suggestions:
- Talk to the student privately to help minimize embarrassment and defensiveness.
- Listen carefully to the student, and respond to both the content and the emotions of the situation.
- Discuss your observations and perceptions of te situation directly and honestly with the student.
- Express your concern in a non-judgemental way. Respect the student's value system, even if you do not agree with it.
- Help the student identify options for action and explore the possible consequences.
- Be frank with the student about the limits on your ability to help him or her.
- If the student appears to be in imminent danger of hurting self or others, consult the University Counseling Services or the police immediately. Do not promise to keep threats to self or others secret.
How to Make a Counseling Center Referral
Presenting yourself as knowledgeable about campus services can ease a student's discomfort about seeking help. Here are some suggestions for emergency and non-emergency situations.
During Regualr Business Hours:
If the emergency occurs during regular NMT business hours (Mon-Fri. 8:00am - 5:00pm) call Counseling Services at 835-6619. State that you need crisis support and ask to speak to the director immediately. If you believe that the student or another person is in imminent danger or out of control, call Campus Police at 835-5434. Provide a description of the situation that hs lead to your concern. Counseling Services will advise you of the appropriate actions to take to most effectively help the student.
Outside of Regular Business:
If the emergency occurs outside of Counseling Services business hours, call Campus Police at 835-5434 and inform them of the situation. They will contact Counseling Services and/or Socorro Mental Health 835-2444 as needed.
Encourage the student to contact Counseling Services directly to schdule an intital intake interview, by calling 835-6619.
Offer to let the student call from your office if you believe that they need extra support and encouragement.
It might helpful to share with the student that Counseling Services is staffed by licensed mental health professionals.