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Assisting Distressed Students

How To Assist A Distressed Student

Referring others for counseling is an important and sometimes difficult task. Every year many registered students, faculty, and staff call or come to the Counselling Centre expressing concern about someone - a friend, relative, roommate, or student.

Student problems may include stress overload, depression, anxiety, family or relationship issues, physical or sexual abuse, academic difficulties, substance abuse, eating issues, and identity concerns. Staff and faculty may wish to consult with the on-call counsellor or director of the Counselling Centre to explore strategies for assisting students.

When To Intervene

Some signs of student distress are: social withdrawal, lack of energy, falling asleep in class, inability to concentrate, marked changes in personal hygiene, impaired speech, garbled and disjointed thoughts, threats to harm self or others, and marked irritability.

Faculty members may observe other behaviors that indicate distress such as frequently missing class, a drop in the quality of academic work, crying in class or the office, or disturbing material in submitted assignments. Staff and faculty may wish to consult with the on-call counsellor or director of the Counselling Centre to explore strategies for assisting students.

How to Intervene

  • Talk to the student in private
  • Be gentle and caring
  • Specifically state your reasons for concern
  • Listen carefully
  • Avoid criticizing or sounding judgemental

When Is A Referral Appropriate?

  • The problem is more serious than you feel comfortable or capable of dealing with
  • You are extremely busy or are experiencing stress in your own life and are unable or unwilling to handle the student's needs
  • You have talked to the student and helped as much as you can but further assistance is needed
  • You think that your personal feelings about the student would interfere with your ability to be helpful
  • The student admits there is a problem but does not want to talk to you about it
  • The student asks for information or assistance which you are unable to provide

Ways To Assist A Student Reluctant To Accept A Referral

  • Acknowledge and discuss the student's fears and concerns about seeking help
  • Remind the student that counselling sessions are strictly confidential
  • Remind the student that counselling at the Counselling Centre is free
  • Point out that a situation does not have to reach crisis proportions for him/her to benefit from professional help. Emphasize that, although some people believe that seeking counseling is an admission of weakness and failure, in fact is often takes considerable courage to face oneself and acknowledge one's limitations
  • Offer to accompany the student to the Counselling Centre

What To Do If The Student Refuses Help

While it is important to care about the emotional well-being of students, we cannot make their decisions for them. Staff and faculty may wish to consult with the on-call counsellor or director of the Counselling Centre to explore strategies for assisting students

If the student resists referral and you remain uncomfortable with the situation, contact the Counselling Centre (864-8874) to discuss your concern.

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