University students typically encounter a great deal of stress (i.e., academic, social, family, work, financial) during the course of their educational experience. While most students cope successfully with the demands of college life, for some the pressures can become overwhelming and unmanageable. Students in difficulty have a number of resources available to them. These include close friends, relatives, clergy, and coaches. In fact, anyone who is seen as caring and trustworthy may be a potential resource in time of trouble. The Counseling Services office is staffed by trained mental-health professionals who can assist students in times of personal crisis.
Services Available Through Counseling Services
Counseling Services provides same-day crisis appointments for students in crisis. We also provide after-hours counselors-on-call. Consultation services are also available via phone or in-person: students, faculty/staff, and parents can contact our office to consult about a student who might be in crisis. Counseling staff can provide suggestions on how best to proceed and offer resources. Counseling staff can also provide debriefing for traumatic events that may occur on campus, such as in the Residence Halls for students, or in a academic department for faculty and staff.
To assist faculty and staff in handling students in distress, we have produced a Faculty/Staff Referral Guide.
In addition to the services provided by Counseling Services, you can also find information for referrals to community resources at our Referral Page. This includes resources in the Western New York area as well as how to find resources elsewhere in the country.
Tips For Recognizing Students In Crisis
(Adapted by permission of the Counseling, Learning, and Career Center, University of Texas/Austin.)
At one time or another, everyone feels depressed or upset. But we can identify three general levels of student distress, which, when present over a period of time, suggest that the problems the person is dealing with are more than the "normal ones."
Level 1 These behaviors, although not disruptive to others, may indicate that something is wrong and that help may be needed:
- serious grade problems or a change from consistently good grades to unaccountably poor performance;
- excessive absences, especially if the student had previously demonstrated good, consistent class attendance;
- unusual or markedly changed pattern of interaction i.e., totally avoiding participation, becoming excessively anxious when called upon, dominating discussions, etc;
- other characteristics that suggest the student is having trouble managing stress successfully include a depressed, lethargic mood; being excessively active and talkative (very rapid speech); swollen, red eyes; marked change in personal dress and hygiene; sweaty (when room not hot); falling asleep inappropriately.
Level 2 These behaviors may indicate significant emotional distress, but also a reluctance or inability to acknowledge a need for more personal help:
- repeated requests for special consideration, such as deadline extensions, especially if the student appears uncomfortable or highly emotional disclosing the circumstances prompting the request;
- new or regularly occurring behavior that pushes the limits of decorum and interferes with the effective management of the immediate environment;
- unusual or exaggerated emotional response which is obviously inappropriate to the situation.
Level 3 These behaviors usually show a student in obvious crisis who needs emergency care:
- highly disruptive behavior (hostile, aggressive, violent, etc.);
- inability to communicate clearly (garbled, slurred speech; unconnected or disjointed thoughts);
- loss of contact with reality (seeing,/hearing things which "aren't there," beliefs or actions greatly at odds with reality or probability);
- overtly suicidal thoughts (referring to suicide as a current option);
- homicidal threats.
Level 3 problems are the easiest to identify and the easiest to handle in that assistance by a professional is clearly necessary. A list of resources can be found below. In dealing with a student who shows Level 1 or Level 2 behavior, you have several choices. You can choose to not deal with it at all; deal directly with the request or disruptive behavior in a way that limits your interaction to the classroom issue; or you can deal with the situation on a more personal level. A referral to the Counseling Services office may be an important part of how you deal with the student's concerns.
If you choose to approach a student you're concerned about or if a student seeks you out for help with personal problems, here are some suggestions which might make the opportunity more comfortable for you and helpful for the student:
- Talk to the student in private when both of you have 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 confident about what to do next.
- If you have initiated the contact, express your concern in behavioral, nonjudgmental terms (e.g., "I've noticed you've been absent from class lately and I'm concerned," rather than "Where have you been lately? Goofing off again?").
- Listen to thoughts and feelings in a sensitive non-threatening way. Communicate understanding by repeating back the gist of what the student has told you. Try to include both the 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.
- Work with the student to clarify the costs and benefits of each option for handling the problem from the student's point of view.
- Avoid judging, evaluating, criticizing, unless the student asks your opinion. Such behavior is apt to close the student off from you and from getting the help needed. It is important to respect the student's value system, even if you don't agree with it.
In addition to Counseling Services, listed below are additional resources for people experiencing a mental health emergency:
- Comprehensive List of Student Help Resources - PDF
- Comprehensive List of Faculty-Staff Help Resources - PDF
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
- Crisis Services Hotline
24 hour telephone hotline
- Suicide Hotlines & Prevention Resources
- University Police (645-2228)
Emergency Use Only (645-2222)
- Campus Ministeries (645-2998)