A resource page for employees of Emmanuel College who work closely with students and observe or talk with a student who is particularly distressed and may exhibit concerning signs of depression, self-harm, or significant changes in behavior.
Many faculty find adding a statement on their syllabus regarding mental health and available resources provides helpful information to students and conveys faculty awareness of the stress that students can experience and their responsibility for managing this. Below are two recommended examples used at EC:
- Statement on Physical/Emotional Health
A range of issues can cause barriers to learning, such as strained relationships, increased anxiety, health issues, alcohol/drug problems, feeling down, difficulty concentrating, lack of motivation or feeling ill. These concerns or other stressful events may lead to diminished academic performance or may reduce your ability to participate in daily activities. College resources can help you address these and other concerns. You can learn more about our broad range of confidential mental health or medical services at the Counseling Center located in Admin 151 or Health Services located in lower level of St. Joseph’s Hall. (www.emmanuel.edu/counseling)
Please remember that the Counseling Center is also a confidential place to talk about sexual assault incidents. Getting help is courageous and will make a difference.
- Statement on Success and Emotional and Physical Health
Success in this course may depend heavily on your personal health and wellbeing. Recognize that stress is an expected part of the college experience, and it often can be compounded by unexpected setbacks or life changes. I encourage you to reframe challenges as an unavoidable pathway to success. Reflect on your role in taking care of yourself throughout the term, before the demands of exams and projects reach their peak. Please reach out to me about any difficulty you have that may impact your performance in your courses or daily activities as soon as it occurs and before it becomes too overwhelming.
There are many campus resources available to help, including the confidential resources of the Counseling Center (Adm 151) and Health Services (St Joe’s basement). Please talk with me if you need help in accessing these or resources.
Helping a Student in Distress
As employees of the College who work closely with students, you are likely aware of the stress involved with balancing the demands of school, work, relationships, and personal development. In your role, you may be the first to observe or talk with a student who is particularly distressed and may exhibit concerning signs of depression, self-harm, or significant changes in behavior. Whenever you have concerns about a student, you are welcome to consult with the Counseling Center (ECCC). Another important resource for reporting concerns that are not of an emergency nature is the Care Team, a committee with representatives from across campus which meets weekly to discuss students of concern. (link). Additional information about working with students of concern and campus resources can be found in the college’s RED FOLDER (link). A hard copy for your desk can be requested from the ECCC.
Tips for Recognizing and Responding to Concerning Students
Everyone feels upset, anxious or depressed at one time or another. However, there are three levels of student distress which, when present over a period, suggest that the problems are more than "normal" developmental responses.
Although not disruptive to others in your class, work, or elsewhere, these behaviors may indicate that something is wrong, and that help may be needed:
- Serious grade problems
- Unaccountable change from good to poor performance
- Change from frequent attendance to excessive absences
- Change in pattern of interaction
- Marked change in mood, motor activity, or speech
- Marked change in physical appearance
- Repeated absence from work, class, or other obligations.
These behaviors may indicate significant emotional distress or a reluctance or an inability to acknowledge a need for personal help:
- Repeated request for special consideration
- New or regularly occurring behavior which pushes the limits and may interfere with class management, job responsibilities, or be disruptive to others
- Unusual or exaggerated emotional response
- Coming to work or class while intoxicated or high
- Excessive weight loss
Helpful Responses to Level 1/Level 2 Behavior
- Arrange to talk in a private setting when you both have time
- Listen First; Reflect the Struggle and their effort/intent with compassion
- Ask if this has happened before or is it new
- Identify supports or strategies in the past that have worked.
- Help the student identify options for action and probable consequences.
- Normalize anxiety/feelings while empathizing with distress and impact; reassure them that this is not insurmountable and does not define them.
- Maintain clear boundaries and consistent expectations
- Normalize the need for help in learning coping skills. Use an analogy such as learning a new language. They may need coaching and will need practice. ECCC skill groups can help.
- Be direct about the importance of getting help and make the referral to appropriate resources positively. Remind them that seeking help is a sign of strength and courage.
- Ask the student if it is ok if you circle back and to see if they had difficulty following through with a plan or a referral.
- If the student expresses distress, hopelessness, ask if the student is considering suicide. Always ask directly if you are concerned about the student’s safety.
These behaviors usually show that the student is in crisis and needs emergency care:
- Highly disruptive behavior (hostility, aggression, etc.)
- Inability to communicate clearly (garbled, slurred speech, disjointed thoughts)
- Loss of contact with reality (seeing/hearing things that are not there, beliefs or actions at odds with reality)
- Overt suicidal thoughts (suicide is a current option)
- Homicidal or violent threats
Helpful Responses to Level 3 Behavior
- Stay calm. Your calmness will increase the likelihood the student will remain calm.
- Your safety is a priority. Remove yourself immediately if you do not feel safe and call Campus Safety at 617.735.9888
- For students who exhibit severe anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, or any other intense emotional disturbance, and for whom no immediate harm seems likely, refer or call or walk student down to the Counseling Center (617.735.9920, ADM 151). The Center has a walk-in emergency hour Monday-Friday from 3:00-4:00.
Do's and Don'ts in Responding to Suicidality
- DO show that you take the student's feelings seriously.
- DO let the student know that you want to help them get the support that they need.
- DO listen attentively and empathize.
- DO reassure that with help they will recover.
- DO stay close until help is available, or risk has passed.
- DO assess the immediacy of the threat to determine whether a referral to ECCC for an appointment, a walk to ECCC for immediate assessment, or a call to Campus Safety is appropriate.
- DON'T try to shock or challenge the student.
- DON'T analyze the student's motives.
- DON'T become argumentative.
- DON'T react with shock or disdain at the student's thoughts and feelings.
- DON'T minimize the student's distress.
Emergency or Crisis Situations
Try to stay calm. If possible, find someone to stay with the student while calls are made. If you are in danger, leave the situation and immediately call Campus Safety.
For students expressing an immediate direct threat to themselves or others, who have a weapon, or who act in a disruptive, a bizarre, or a highly irrational way, call:
- Campus Safety if on campus (available 24/7) 617.735.9888. Campus Safety can reach an on-call counselor after hours if consultation is needed, can escort the student to the appropriate resources, and can provide protection.
- 911 if off campus. After calling 911, please inform EC Campus Safety.
- Counseling Center 617.735.9920. (8:30-4:30, Mon-Fri.) For emergency consultation, evaluation, treatment, and referral.
- Dean of Students 617.735.9917. For emergency consultation.
Is Someone in Imminent Danger?
Imminent Danger: Risk of death is high. They have a plan and access to a lethal means, are planning to make an attempt very soon or are currently in the process of making an attempt.
- Call Campus Safety 24/7 or
- Call Campus Saftey/Counseling Center
- Call Counseling Center during business hours
- CS/CC will consult the appropriate party if needed
- After hours, call Campus Safety who can contact the Counselor on Call.
How to Make a Referral
Consider these questions before making the referral:
- What are the appropriate and available resources for the student’s problem? Use the RED FOLDER to identify available resources (link). There may be other resources, such as the Academic Advising, Campus Ministries, or Health Center which are more appropriate for student’s concern.
- With whom would the student feel most comfortable?
- Who will make the initial contact, you or the student?
To the student
- Be frank with the student about the limits of your time, ability, expertise, and/or objectivity.
- Let the student know that you care about their situation, want them to receive the best support for their situation, and have confidence in the resource that you are recommending.
- Normalize help-seeking as a sign of strength and assure them that many successful students seek help over the course of their college career. This is one reason that they are successful.
- Try to help the student know what to expect if (s)he follows through on the referral.
- Ask if you can follow up with them to see if they had any difficulty accessing the referral source.
A referral to the ECCC
- The Counseling Center is open Mon-Fri, 8:30-4:30. Unless the situation is an emergency, the student must make an appointment.
- The Center has a walk-in emergency hour Mon.-Fri, 3:00-4:00. If this is not an emergency, please have the student call or walk in to schedule an appointment. Examples of emergencies are safety concerns, sexual or physical assaults, sudden death or loss.
- Students can usually be seen for the initial assessment appointment within 2-3 days. At this appointment, the counselor and student will decide whether the student should be seen in the Center for group or individual counseling or should be seen by an off-campus provider. Students who need specialized services and/or long-term treatment are referred to off-campus.
Consultation is Available
If you have concerns about a student, Counseling Center Staff are available for consultation. Call the Center or email to discuss your concern. Some of the ways we might help include:
- Assessing the seriousness of the situation
- Suggesting potential resources
- Finding the best way to make a referral
- Clarifying your own feelings about the student and the situation
Classroom Interventions (Don’t Cancel Class!)
If you know in advance that you will be out of class, consider inviting someone from the Center to talk with your students about a relevant topic or issue. Staff have expertise in different social science areas such as racial identity development, gender, and leadership and can also address other relevant areas such as stress management, mindfulness, and learning, emotional intelligence.