Faculty is usually the first consistent level of contact for students. By providing a rich learning environment on a day-to-day basis, you are able to connect with students and notice when “things just aren’t right”. Whether it is poor classroom performance, absenteeism, or demands of life, these issues can affect how, and whether a student persists and achieves his or her goals.
If you see a problem, or a student requests assistance, please refer them to the counseling office using the Counseling Services Referral Process.
Counseling Services Referral Process
The following steps should be taken when an instructor or other employee refers a student for counseling.
- Talk with the student about the concern.
If you have a concern about the student’s academic performance or behavior, try to talk with the student about this concern. If the student brings an academic or personal concern to your attention, listen to the concern. For more information see Understanding Emotional Distress*.
- Tell the student about Counseling Services.
If you or the student feel that counseling is appropriate, tell the student about Durham Tech’s Counseling Services. If the student wants to contact a counselor, give the student the location and number for Counseling Services: Wynn Center, room 1209, 919-536-7207. Some students will make an appointment without your help, and some will not. If you feel it is important to be more involved in order to get the student the needed help, tell the student that you would like to contact a counselor directly to discuss the concern.
- Contact Counseling Services.
Complete a Counseling Alert form, call 919-536-7207 or email Karen Mosley-Lyon to contact Durham Tech’s Counseling Services. If you call, a front desk attendant will help you connect with the counselor who is best equipped to meet the needs of the student. All counselors are available to discuss personal or academic concerns with students, and will contact the referred student.
- Meet with the counselor and the student. (optional)
The purpose of this brief meeting is to provide the student with a personal connection to a counselor. Introduce the counselor to the student and discuss your concerns with all present. After talking briefly, the counselor will invite the student to talk more in-depth about the concern. At this point, allow the student to meet with the counselor in private.
- Follow up with the student. (optional)
If you are concerned for any reason about your response to the student’s concerns, document the actions you took to refer the student to a counselor. You should be aware that due to confidentiality laws, it is not possible for the counselor to provide you with information that was discussed in private with the student. If you would like some information about the resolution of the student’s concerns, ask the student directly.
*Understanding Emotional Distress, Tips for Recognizing Emotionally Distressed Students, and Responding to Emotionally Distressed Students are adapted from the Best Practices Manual for Counseling Referrals, by The North Carolina Community College System Department of Student Development Services, February 2008.
Understanding Emotional Distress
Emotional Distress (upset) is a physical and psychological reaction to issues and events occurring in a person’s environment. Common stress triggers for college students can include concerns about achieving goals, relationships issues, changes in one’s environment, life challenges, and periods of significant transition.
As a faculty or staff member interacting daily with students, you are in an excellent position to recognize behavior changes that characterize an emotionally upset student. You may observe that at certain times of the year, particularly during midterms, finals, and holidays, students may experience increased anxiety.
A student’s behavior, especially if it is inconsistent with your previous observations, could well mean an attempt to draw attention to his/her problems. . .“a cry for help.”
Common Causes of Emotional Distress
Grief and loss
Sexual or physical abuse or assault
Lack of money
|Sexual or racial identity confusion
Academic pressure or failure
Serious illness or injury
Difficulty adjusting to college life
Child care issues
Tips for Recognizing Emotionally Distressed Students
College students typically live with a great deal of stress (i.e. academic, social, family, work, financial) during their educational experiences. While most students cope successfully, for some the pressures can become overwhelming and unmanageable.
At one time or another, everyone feels depressed or upset. However, there are three levels of student distress, which may mean that the problems are more than the "normal" ones.
Level 1 Behaviors — Although not disruptive, these behaviors may indicate that something is wrong and that help may be needed. Contact Counseling Services.
- Serious grade problems or sudden changes in performance
- Change from good attendance to many absences
- Big changes in mood, motor activity, or speech
- Big changes in physical appearance
- Falling asleep in class on multiple occasions
Level 2 Behaviors — These behaviors may indicate significant distress, or the student may not be able to ask for help directly. Contact Counseling Services.
- Many requests for special consideration
- New or repeated behavior which pushes the limits and may interfere with class management or be disruptive to others
- Unusual or exaggerated emotional response
Level 3 Behaviors — The behaviors below usually show that the student is in crisis and needs emergency care. For emergency care, contact Counseling Services AND Campus Security.
- Hostility or aggression
- Garbled or slurred speech, disconnected thoughts
- Seeing/hearing things that are not there and beliefs or actions at odds with reality
- Suicidal thoughts (suicide is a current option)
- Homicidal threats
Responding to a Distressed Student
A faculty or staff member is often the first person to recognize when a student is upset and to reach out to that student. Faculty and staff are not expected to provide personal counseling to students or handle security matters. Rather, faculty and staff play an important role in enforcing the Student Code of Conduct and Student Conduct Procedures encouraging students to use campus resources, including making a referral to Counseling Services.
There is no one correct way to deal with an upset student. Each person has his/her own style of approaching others and direct ways of helping with problems. It is important to know your personal abilities and limits.
If you decide to try to help an upset or distressed student, or if a student approaches you to talk about personal problems, here are some suggestions:
- Speak directly to the student when you sense that he/she is in academic trouble and/or personal upset.
- Openly acknowledge that you are aware of their distress, that you are sincerely concerned, and that you are willing to help explore options.
- Request to see the student in private. Briefly acknowledge what you saw and express your concerns directly and honestly.
- Listen carefully to what the student is saying and try to see the issue from his/her point of view without agreeing or disagreeing.
- Your openness to an upset student will allow him/her to respond more effectively to your concerns. Help the student explore options for action and possible consequences.
- Be open about the limits on your ability to help the student. If the student appears to be in imminent danger of hurting self or others, call Counseling Services or Campus Security at ext. 5555. Do not promise to keep a student’s threats to self or others secret.