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 and challenging experiences, while others can become too overwhelmed, and struggle 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; you are in 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 and adjustment issues
  • Changes in personal relationships
  • Drug and alcohol use
  • Academic difficulties
  • Self-esteem issues
  • Body image issues and/or 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. However, if more than one indicator is presented, please make a referral to CAPS 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
  • Suspicion or Knowledge of substance abuse
  • Bizarre/inappropriate behaviors
  • References to suicide
  • Incapacitating test anxiety
  • Schoolwork that has themes of hopelessness, despair, social isolation, rage
  • Aggressiveness

Responding To Distressed Students

Your frequent contact with students allows you the opportunity to observe students’ behaviors and identify those who display signs of risks. As a faculty or staff member you serve as a role model to Saint Peter’s students, and therefore students may often turn to you for guidance. The care and concern you offer can make a difference. Please remember, you are a crucial link between a student and services both on and or campus. Here are some tips for interactions with students who display warning 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, or professionals on campus

Tips for Responding to Distressed Students


Counseling and Psychological Services is available for consultations. If a faculty or staff member contacts 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 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 CAPS 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.

For more information on how to help students call CAPS at (201) 761-6420. If your concern is urgent call CAPS during regular business hours; after hours and on campus call Campus Safety at (201) 761-7400 or if off campus call 911.