In the workshop, Kurt Gehlert, Ph.D., presents a segment on
ways to intervene on behalf of a student in distress.
If you choose to approach a student you are concerned about
or if a student reaches out to you for help with personal
problems, here are some suggestions which might make the
opportunity more comfortable for you and more helpful for
Talk to the student in private
when both of you have the time and are not rushed or preoccupied.
Give the student your undivided attention. It is possible that
just a few minutes of effective listening on your part may be
enough to help the student feel cared about as an individual and
more confident about what to do. If you have initiated the contact,
express your concern in behavioral, nonjudgmental terms.
For example, "I've noticed you've been absent from class
lately and I'm concerned," rather than "Where have you
been lately? You should be more concerned about your grades."
Listen to thoughts and feelings
in a sensitive, non-threatening way. Communicate understanding
by repeating back the essence of what the student has told you.
Try to include both content
and feelings, ("It
sounds like you're not accustomed to such a big campus and you're
feeling left out of things.") Let the student talk.
Give hope. Assure the student
that things can get better. It is important to help them realize
there are options, and that things will not always seem this hopeless.
Suggest resources: friends, family, clergy, coaches or other professionals
on campus. Recognize, however, that your purpose should be to
provide enough hope to enable the student to consult a professional
or other appropriate person and not to solve the student's problems.
Avoid judging, evaluating
and criticizing even if the student asks your opinion. Such behavior
is apt to push the student away from you and from the help that
he or she needs. It is important to respect the student's value
system, even if you do not agree with it.
Maintain clear and consistent boundaries
and expectations. It is important to maintain the professional
nature of the faculty/student or staff/student relationship and
the consistency of academic expectations, exam schedules, etc.
You may be able to help a student understand options related to
a deferred grade, late drop or withdrawal from the semester. If
a student seems to feel overly distressed about making a decision
about options, personal assistance can be facilitated through
Refer. In making a referral,
it is important to point out that:
- help is available
- seeking such help is a sign of strength and courage rather
than a sign of weakness or failure.
It may be helpful to point out that seeking professional help
for other problems (medical, legal, car problems, etc.) is considered
good judgement and an appropriate use of resources. If you can,
prepare the student for what to expect. Tell the student what
you know about CAPS services or other
campus and community options.
Timing. It is important to
be aware that options for referral vary depending on the time
of day. CAPS is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
for appointments and crisis intervention. After hours and on weekends,
students who are in crisis are advised to call the CAN HELP Line
at 1-800-643-5432 for emergency support.
Follow-up. Arrange a time
to meet again to solidify the student's resolve to obtain appropriate
help and to demonstrate your commitment to assist in this process.
Check later to see that the referral appointment was kept and
to hear how it went. Provide support while the student takes further
appropriate action or pursues another referral if needed.
Consult. When in doubt about
the advisability of an intervention, call CAPS at 863-0395.
After hours and on weekends, Centre County CAN HELP can provide
consultation regarding mental health emergencies at 1-800-643-5432.
NEXT: INTERVENTION RESOURCES