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Psychological and Emotional Support

Identifying At-Risk Students:  A Guide for Faculty and Staff

Signs and Symptoms

Guidelines for Faculty and Staff Intervention

Reasons for Counseling

Emergency Contacts

University faculty and staff can be in unique positions to identify students who are experiencing emotional distress.  While all students experience distress at one time or another, a small minority of distressed students experience such distress that they may be at risk of harming themselves or other people.  It is, therefore, important for faculty and staff to become aware of both general signs of distress, as well as specific risk factors that could indicate the potential for harm to self or others.  It is also important for faculty and staff to know what to do once a distressed or at-risk student is identified.

While not all-encompassing, there are a number of resources on campus available to faculty and staff wishing to assist distressed students; they are:

1)      Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS).  CAPS provides direct clinical services to students as well as training and consultation on a wide array on mental health and wellness issues to the greater university community.

2)      The Dean of Students Office/Invisible Support Network (ISN).  The Dean of Students Office can be helpful in assisting students who face a range of difficulties while at the university.  The ISN is a multidisciplinary group comprised of representatives from Residential Life, Public Safety, The Office of Student Conduct, Learning Plus, and CAPS which meets regularly to discuss students who appear to be in need of assistance.

3)      The Department of Public Safety.  When there is an urgent concern relating to the safety or well-being of a student, Public Safety officers are available to provide immediate help.

In addition to being familiar with campus resources, it is important for faculty and staff to recognize the signs and symptoms of general distress, risk factors for harmful behaviors, as well as behaviors that require immediate attention.  Additionally, it is important for faculty and staff to know what they can do to help if they become concerned about a student. 

Please remember: whenever concerns about a student arise, CAPS (x4482) and the Dean of Students Office (x4260) are available for consultation.

Some signs and symptoms that can indicate general distress are:

  • Increased procrastination and/or lower quality of work
  • Reduction in class attendance
  • Lack of energy
  • Social withdrawal
  • Crying in the office and/or classroom
  • Inability to concentrate in class

Guidelines for faculty and staff intervention: 

  • Talk to the student in private
  • Share your reasons for concern
  • Listen carefully
  • Avoid criticizing or judging
  • Consider discussing with the student a referral to CAPS(x4482)
  • Consider contacting Suzanne McNeil in the Dean of Students Office (x4260) to discuss an ISN referral or consultation with the student.

Some risk factors for harmful behaviors that might merit further evaluation, especially when several occur at the same time, include:[i]

  • Severe anxiety, racing thoughts, acute agitation
  • Persistent sleep difficulties
  • Increased use of drugs or alcohol
  • A recent loss (e.g., death of a loved one, breakup of a relationship)
  • Talking, writing, or thinking about death and/or suicide
  • Feelings of being trapped or helpless
  • Inability to look to the future with some hope or optimism

Guidelines for faculty and staff intervention: 

  • Discuss your concerns with Suzanne McNeil in the Dean of Students Office (GSU307, x4260)
  • Strongly encourage the student to seek CAPS services
  • Consider walking a student to the CAPS offices (GSU313, x4482) or to the Dean of Students Office

Behaviors that require immediate attention include:i

  • A student making it known that s/he intends to kill herself/himself or someone else
  • A student making plans or seeking means for harming self or others (e.g., obtaining a weapon, stockpiling pills)
  • A student causing serious injury to herself or himself (e.g., an overdose) even if s/he denies that the intent was to commit suicide

Guidelines for faculty and staff intervention: 

  • Immediately call Public Safety at x7777 for assistance.

Ways faculty and staff can assist a student who is reluctant to seek counseling:

It can be helpful to remind students that a situation does not have to reach crisis proportions in order for them to benefit from professional help. Acknowledging, validating, and discussing the student's fears and concerns about seeking help may be useful. Additionally, one can validate that, although some people feel that seeking counseling is an admission of weakness or failure, it in fact takes considerable courage and integrity to acknowledge one's limitations and seek help from others. One may wish to offer to accompany the student to CAPS or to assist them in setting up an appointment.

If the student refuses help:

If the student resists referral and you remain uncomfortable with the situation, a faculty or staff member can contact CAPS (x4482) to discuss her/his concern. They may also contact Suzanne McNeil in The Dean of Students Office (x4260) in order to have the student discussed at the ISN.  However, if one is concerned about the student's immediate safety or the safety of others Public Safety should be called at extension 7777.

[1] Ask the Question.  Make a Call.  Save a Life.  University Counseling Center, University at Albany

Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) is available Monday-Friday 8:30-4:30 in Gengras 313, ext.  4482, for students seeking counseling.  CAPS offers short-term, confidential psychotherapy sessions.  Common issues include depression, anxiety, eating concerns, family or relationship problems, and stress and time management.  The following information is from the CAPS website (click here for more information):

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For Faculty and Staff

Students can benefit from counseling for a variety of reasons, including dealing with stress, depression, anxiety, family and relationship issues, physical or sexual abuse, academic difficulties, substance abuse, and identity concerns.

The Faculty/Staff Role in Responding

As a faculty or staff member, you are in an excellent position to recognize behavioral changes that characterize the emotionally troubled student. A student's behavior, especially if it is inconsistent with your previous observations, could be an indication of difficulties the student may be experiencing. Your ability to recognize the signs of emotional distress and your willingness to acknowledge your concerns directly to the student are often noted by students as the most significant factors in successfully confronting their problems.

In general, you should consider referring students for counseling if their problems have compromised their ability to take pleasure in life or function academically, personally, or socially.

Signs of Distress

Some signs and symptoms of student distress are:

  • increased procrastination and/or lower quality of work
  • reduction in class attendance
  • lack of energy
  • social withdrawal
  • crying in the office and/or classroom
  • disturbing material content in academic assignments
  • inability to concentrate in class

How to Intervene

Guidelines for intervention include:

  • talk to the student in private
  • specifically state your reasons for concern
  • listen carefully
  • avoid criticizing or judging
  • discuss with the student a referral to Counseling & Psychological Services(4482)

Ways you can assist a student who is reluctant to seek counseling

Remind the student of the counseling center's policy of strict confidentiality. Remind the student that as an undergraduate, services are available at no cost; graduate students may be eligible for services for a nominal fee (though emergency intervention is available for anyone). Point out that a situation does not have to reach crisis proportions for a student to benefit from professional help. Acknowledge, validate, and discuss the student's fears and concerns about seeking help. Emphasize that, although some people feel that seeking counseling is an admission of weakness or failure, in fact, it takes considerable courage and integrity to acknowledge one's limitations and seek help from others. Offer to accompany the student to the counseling office or offer to assist him/her in setting up an appointment.

What happens when a student visits the counseling office for the first time?

The counselor and the student will evaluate the nature and severity of the problem and together will determine a course of action. Options include a few problem-solving sessions, individual or couples counseling, group therapy, or referral to another University or community resource. Individual, couples, and group counseling generally are offered on a short-term basis (usually less than a semester).

What other resources and services can be found at the CAPS office?

In addition to individual counseling sessions, CAPS staff also provides workshops and presentations for various campus organizations and consults with administrators, faculty, and staff who are dealing with student problems. The counseling office operates a substantial training program, including pre-doctoral and pre-master's practicum placements.

What if the student refuses help?

While it is important to care about the emotional well-being of students, we cannot make their decision for them, and participating in counseling is always a personal choice. If the student resists referral and you remain uncomfortable with the situation, contact Counseling and Psychological Services at 768-4482 to discuss your concern.

Emergency Procedures

If you are concerned that a student might pose a risk to herself/himself or to someone else, you should call CAPS to discuss your concern (ext. 4482).  If you believe that a student is in imminent danger, or if you are calling after hours (office hours: Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.), you should call public safety (ext. 7777)

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Emergency Information

ON-CAMPUS EMERGENCY 7777


OFF-CAMPUS EMERGENCY 911
Emotional Support and Counseling On Campus

Sexual Assault Advisors
(CAPS) during business hours 768-4482
(Public Safety) anytime 768-7985

Professional Counselors
Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) 768-4482

Emotional Support and Counseling Off Campus
SACS (24-hour hotline) 522-6666

University Public Safety
Non-emergency 768-7985
Emergency 7777

West Hartford Police
Non-emergency 523-5203
Emergency 911

Hartford Police
Non-emergency 527-6300
Emergency 911

Bloomfield Police
Non-emergency 242-5501
Emergency 911

On-campus Medical Treatment
University Health Services 768-6601

Off-campus Medical Treatment
Mt. Sinai Hospital 714-4000
Hartford Hospital 545-0000
St. Francis Hospital 714-4000

Judicial Affairs
Judicial Coordinator 768-4413

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