Guide for Faculty & Staff
Assisting Students: A Guide
The college years are a time of great challenges and excitement. Students are offered the opportunity to grow academically, emotionally, physically and spiritually. Students will respond to this opportunity in varying ways. Many students will successfully cope with stressful experiences, though others can become too overwhelmed and incapacitated by the stress, thereby struggling to meet the demands of college life.
Poorly managed stress can have negative physical, emotional, psychiatric and behavioral consequences, which could interfere with a student’s academic performance and/or interpersonal development. In order to assist our students in maximizing their potential, early identification of At-Risk signs is crucial. When proper assistance is provided, crises can be opportunities for self growth. As faculty and staff you are on the front lines, this places you an excellent position to recognize and assist a struggling student. The following is a guide to assist you with your interactions with students.
Problems Students May Experience
- Transition issues
- Changes in personal relationships
- Drug and alcohol use
- Academic difficulties
- Learning difficulties
- Eating disorders
- Psychiatric disorders
Signs of Distress
Students who are struggling often show signs. These signs may be overt or at times can be less obvious. Please read the following indicators, which can help in identifying a student At Risk. Please note, the presence of one indicator may not be indicative of a crisis, If more than one indicator is presented please make a referral to our center or call us for a consultation.
- Drastic change in mood (depressed, angry, crying, agitated, irritable)
- Withdrawal/social isolation
- Marked changes in personal hygiene/less attention to appearance
- Decline in academic performance (failure to complete assignments, poor grades, lateness or poor attendance, repeated requests for special considerations)
- Decline in athletic performance
- Poor concentration, difficulty making decisions
- Listlessness, lack of energy, falling asleep in class
- Dramatic weight loss or gain
- Overly nervous, tense, tearful
- Traumatic changes in interpersonal relationships (death, break-up, divorce)
- Impaired speech or disjointed, confused thoughts
- Suspection or Knowledge of substance abuse
- Bizarre/inappropriate behaviors
- References to suicide
- Incapacitating test anxiety
- School work that have themes of hopelessness, despair, social isolation, rage
Responding To Distressed Students
Your frequent contact with students allows you the opportunity to observe students’ behavior and identify those who display signs of risks. As a faculty or staff member you play important role in the lives of Saint Peter’s students, as a role model, students may often turn to you for guidance. The care and concern you offer can make difference. Please remember, you are a crucial link between a student and referrals to services both on and or campus. Here are some tips for interactions with students who display signs
- Request to speak with the student privately
- Briefly and directly state your concerns in a nonjudgmental manner
- Be specific about the behaviors that concern you
- Behaviors that are strange or inappropriate should not be ignored. Comment directly on what you observed
- Listen to thoughts and feelings of the student
- Summarize the essence of what the student has told you
- Assist the student in defining the problem and identify coping strategies
- Suggest sources of help such as family, friends, professionals on campus
Counseling and Psychological Services is available for consultations. Faculty and Staff are encouraged to contact the center, our counselors can provide recommendations, referrals or directly intervene with urgent issues relating to a student’s mental health.
Making a Referral
If you believe that professional counseling services may be beneficial please refer the student to Counseling and Psychological Services. Inform the student of your reason for the referral so they do not feel rejected (conflict of interest, limited experience) and emphasize your concern that the student gets assistance from the appropriate source. Suggest that the student call to make an appointment. At times it may be helpful to assist the student by allowing the use of your phone. You can even offer to contact the center to provide background information; this often helps to break the ice.
Students Reluctant To Accept a Referral
Keep in mind that quite often people believe that only certain people need counseling. Therefore, it is important to reassure the student that the Center sees people who experience a wide array of concerns. For those students who are reluctant to accept the referral, explore their reasons. Allow the student the option to consider alternatives by offering to discuss the issue again. Give the student time to think about their decision. Reluctant students may be reassured to know that they can meet with a counselor one time without committing to ongoing sessions. Accepting the student’s decision to reject the referral, without insisting, will keep the door for future communication open.
Scheduling an Appointment
Provide the student with information about the Center:
- Location: Saint Peter Hall, 2nd Floor, Rear
- Phone: (201) 761-6420
- Hours: Monday thru Friday 9-5
- Cost: Free
- Confidentiality: All communications are confidential by law except where person is in imminent danger of harming self or others
Student Stress Periods
Counseling and Psychological Services recognizes that college can be a stressful time for many students due to the academic, physical, social and interpersonal pressures. Below is listed some typical stress factors that may influence a students life during the academic year. Knowing in advance can heighten your awareness allowing you to be more observant of signs of distress, and it can help in planning strategies to manage the stress periods.
September can be stressful for first-year students in particular.
- Homesickness; struggle with making new friends; may feel alienated from others and/or experience discrimination.
- Students are faced with new experiences and people different from them. They may experience conflicts in values and beliefs and begin questioning their own.
- Feelings of inadequacy stemming from a discrepancy between high school status and grades and initial college performance.
- Returning students may be struggling with their new position (e.g., sophomore, junior, senior) at college and discovering their identity within that position, while managing the accompanying responsibilities.
- There can be significant stress if a student feels the need to re-establish one’s self in a new environment.
- New students may also struggle with newfound freedom. They may find it difficult to develop a structured lifestyle that will help them meet academic demands.
- Anxieties regarding how to live with roommate or stress involved in commuting.
- Students begin to realize that life at college is not as perfect as they were led to believe by others.
- Students may begin to feel overwhelmed by the academic demands.
- Some may feel lonely because they have been unsuccessful at developing supportive friendships.
- Some students get a “wake-up call” after poor performance on mid-term examinations.
- Non-dating students may experience a loss of esteem.
- Job panic for mid-year graduates.
- Increased academic pressure may be experienced due to procrastination, difficulty of work, and/or lack of sufficient ability.
- Depression and anxiety may be experienced because of they believe they should have adjusted to college by now.
- Financial worries because funds from parents and summer jobs begin to run out.
- Isolation and withdrawal; students may be tempted to give up on making friends; social isolation may negatively affecting their academic performance.
- May worry about returning home for the holiday if the semester is not going well.
- Feelings of isolation and homesickness for those students who may not be able to go home for the holiday.
- Extracurricular activities drain student energies.
- Worry may increase as final examinations approach and papers are due.
- Pre-holiday feelings of sadness; especially for those who have concerns for family, those who have no home to visit, and for those who prefer not to go home because of family conflicts.
- Financial strain because of holiday gifts and travel costs.
- Students may have concerns about losing some or all of the recently acquired freedom/independence while at home for winter break.
- Pressure on intimate relationships increased because of the approach of an extended separation.
- Sadness over loss of security and familiarity as students leave home and return to school.
- Some apprehension about academic performance if first semester was more challenging than expected.
- Some students may feel ashamed of their grades from the previous semester.
- Students may feel sad losing relationships of those not returning to school
- Students may also find that they do not like the classes they registered for and/or need to register for different classes due to last semester’s performance.
- Students may experience frustration at trying to establish desired class schedule.
- Seniors may feel sad about impending loss of college student identity and changes in friendships that will occur with graduating in May.
- Career anxiety; some seniors may worry if they decide they do not want a job in the field in they chose.
- Pressure on relationships when some couples begin to establish stronger ties.
- Some may experience loss when relationships weaken or end
- Students who have failed to establish social relationships or achieve some recognition may feel frustrated and dissatisfied with their college experience.
- Students begin to feel the pressure of midterms as spring break quickly approaches.
- Talk of Spring Break plans tends to dominate students’ conversations.
- Drug and alcohol use increases.
- Students may hear bad news about students who have died or been seriously injured while on Spring Break.
- Academic pressure increases.
- Existential crisis for seniors. Must I leave school? Is my education worth anything? Was my major a mistake? Why go on? Where is God? Will I make it?
- Increased worry about life after college for seniors who have not looked for a job or have not found a job.
- Students may also worry because they have yet to find a summer job.
- Academic pressure continues because of impending final exams.
- Sophomores realize they will be taking classes in their major next semester. Some may worry about their abilities to meet the academic requirements of their chosen major.
- Employment concerns; Students may worry while waiting to hear from companies.
- Anxieties regarding declaring a major.
- Pressure of planning for graduation.
- Final exams, papers, and projects may feel overwhelming.
- Social pressures for end of the year activities.
- Seniors may feel anxious about not having job offers especially when they learn peers are getting offers.
- Difficulty motivating oneself for academics because of warmer weather and longer days of light.
- Concern at the realization that the year is ending.
- Transition issues for seniors; concerns about their new phase of life (job, graduate school, marriage, etc.).
- Students may experience sadness, frustration, and anger over leaving friends and returning home.
- Pressure of passing final exams peaks.
- Panic over not having any confirmed plans for the summer.
- Concerns about packing up to move out of the dorms and going back home.
- Fatigue and exhaustion resulting from cramming for exams and completing projects.
If a student you know is having difficulty managing these stress periods, call for a consultation or an appointment….it’s FREE and CONFIDENTIAL.
Counseling and Psychological Services offers a variety of workshops on topics pertinent to students, faculty and staff. We can customize and design sessions to suit your needs.
Please call our office to set up a meeting to discuss how we can help you. (201) 761-6420.