Show You Care
It is usually best to be frank with students about the limits of your availability to assist them - limits of time, energy, training, and objectivity. It is often reassuring to students to hear that you respect their willingness to talk to you and that you want to support them in getting the assistance they need.
What You Can Do for a Student in Distress
An individual who is distressed often wants help but doesn't know how to ask. You can play an essential role by expressing your concern in a caring, nonjudgmental way. If you need help, seek support from the University Counseling Center (701.777.2127) or Dean of Students Office (701.777.2664).
There are a number of ways you can help a friend and show them that you care. Here are a few suggestions:
- Take the person aside and talk to him/her in private. Try to give the other person your undivided attention. Just a few minutes of listening might enable him or her to make a decision about what to do.Listen carefully and with sensitivity.
- Listen in an open minded and nonjudgmental way.
- Be honest and direct, but nonjudgmental. Share what you have observed and why it concerns you. For example: "I've noticed that you've been missing class a lot lately and you aren't answering your phone or text messages like you used to. I'm worried about you."
- Make a referral. The University Counseling Center has counselors available Monday – Friday, from 8:00am until 4:30pm, to assist students on a walk-in basis. Therapists also provide direct consultation to those who call with questions or concerns; however they cannot discuss the student. Encourage the student to make an appointment right then and there. Even better yet: offer to accompany him or her to UCC on the 2nd floor of McCannel Hall.
If the student's behavior causes you to feel alarmed, upset, or worried (most common), please contact the University Counseling Center or Dean of Students. If the student's behavior leaves you feeling frightened and in fear for your personal safety or the safety of others, please contact University Police Department (701.777.3491). The University Police Department works closely with the Counseling Center and Dean of Students office and will consult with both offices as needed. While it can be scary to contact University Police Department in this kind of situation, it is the best call you can make for the safety and security of all involved.
How to Talk to a Student that Needs Help
- Let the student know why you are concerned about them in terms of the student's own worries or needs.
"I often hear you mention your worries about X, and I think that's something you are right to be concerned about."
"It seems from our recent conversations that this is something you really need to talk about."
"When you mention that you are thinking of suicide, I know it concerns you and it concerns me, too."
- Let the student know what they will gain from meeting with a counselor.
"I think you will find it very helpful to discuss all this with someone impartial, someone who can help you sort out your thoughts and feelings."
"This is just the thing to consult with a counselor about - a counselor will know more about this than either one of us."
"You and I just don't have enough time together to address these concerns the way they deserve, and I think you'd get a lot out of talking them over with someone at greater length."
- Avoid labeling the student or their behavior. Labeling, whether accurate or inaccurate, can frighten or discourage a student from getting help. And remember that different parents and cultures have different ways of expressing their distress; what looks strange to you may be "normal" for the other person.
Don't say "You're depressed," or "You have an eating disorder," or "You should be in therapy."
- Reassure the student that making a referral isn't a rejection.
"Even though you will be talking with your counselor about this, feel free to keep in touch."
"Come back and let me know how your meeting with the counselor goes -- I don't want to know the details, but I'd like to know that you've found someone helpful to speak with."
- Offer to keep the student company while they call for an appointment, or to call on behalf of the student while they are sitting there with you or to walk them over to the University Counseling Center.
- Suggest that the student learn more before making an appointment and refer the student to the University Counseling Center website.
- Let the student know what to expect if they talk with a counselor.
"Counselors are here to help all UND students make the most of their university experience."
The student can either call or stop by the University Counseling Center to make a first appointment or "intake," which can usually be scheduled within a few days. If it's an urgent situation, the student should say so and they will be seen sooner.
In a first appointment, the student will discuss with the counselor the situation or feelings that are troubling them and what sort of assistance the student might find helpful. The counselor and student will work together to locate and access whatever the student needs, whether that is a brief consultation, ongoing counseling, a specialized treatment program, a support group, psychiatric medication, etc.
All discussions and records at the University Counseling Center are confidential. For more information on the nature and limits of confidentiality, call the University Counseling Center (701.777.2127).
- Follow up with the student. Remember that the student's contact with the University Counseling Center is confidential, so the student's counselor will not be able to give you any information without the student's explicit permission. If you hear that the student's appointment with a counselor wasn't helpful, invite the student to make an appointment with a different counselor or to bring their concerns to the attention of the Director so a better match can be made.
How to Make a Referral
Some people accept a referral for professional help more easily than others. When proposing a referral, it is best to suggest a referral in a direct and positive manner.
If the student agrees to be referred, you can assist them in scheduling the appointment while with you in your office/room. The student should make the appointment if possible. If the student is reluctant to talk to anyone, you can call the University Counseling Center about appropriate actions or find out if there is anything else you can do.
Students can be seen for crisis sessions or for on-going counseling. Student fees cover the cost of utilizing the University Counseling Center so there is no charge to the student to meet with a University Counseling Center counselor. The University Counseling Center has walk-in hours from 8:00am to 4:30pm, Monday through Friday. No appointment is necessary during these hours. At the first meeting, the counselor and the student will make decisions about what type of assistance is needed and whether additional meetings should be scheduled.
When to Call University Police
- When you believe that you or another person is in immediate danger.
- When you believe that the student is about to harm himself or herself.
- When you believe that the student is out of control and is disrupting the classroom.
University Police Department (701.777.3491).
In addition to identifying and responding to student behavior or indicators of possible emotional distress, please remember FERPA (Family Education Rights and Privacy Act) allows for the disclosure of observable behavior. We always encourage faculty and staff to contact the University Counseling Center or Dean of Students to report concerning behavior.
Faculty and staff members who wish to learn more about recognizing signs of student distress are encouraged to contact the staff at the University Counseling Center.