Responding to and Referring Students in Distress
Quick Reference Numbers:
For life threatening situations, call the Juniata College Public Safety (JCPS) at 814-641-3636
JCPS (non-emergency) - (814-641-3163)
Dean of Students Office - (814-641-3150)
Glaeser Center for Counseling Services - (814-641-3353)
Juniata College Health Center - (814-641-3410)
Office for the Prevention of Interpersonal Violence - (814-641-3077)
Office of Residential Life - (814-641-3323)
Juniata Valley Tri-County Crisis (Mental Health/Mobile Crisis Intervention) Available 24/7 - (1-800-929-9583)
Huntingdon Counseling & Psychiatric Services - (814-643-6300)
UCBH - (814-643-0309)
Mainstream Drug and Alcohol Counseling - (814-643-1114)
Huntingdon House - (814-643-1190)
Abuse Network - (814-506-8237)
Some Signals Indicating Possible Distress
- Expressing serious personal concerns.
- Poor personal hygiene.
- Dependency- student wants to be around you all the time or makes excessive appointments.
- Loss of interest in normal activities, withdrawal from social interactions, or seclusion.
- Suspiciousness or feelings of being persecuted that do not seem warranted.
- Decline in work/academic performance.
- Missing class/work regularly.
- Use of alcohol or other drugs begins or escalates.
- Unusual irritability; outbursts of anger, unexplained crying, aggressiveness, excessive anxiety.
Additional Tips and Information
- Educate yourself on what resources are available on campus and how to connect.
- Consult with appropriate offices (i.e., Juniata College Glaeser Center for Counseling Services, Office for the Prevention of Interpersonal Violence, Dean of Students Office, Public Safety, etc.).
- Have back-up support and know who to call in the event additional help is needed.
- If a student expresses a direct threat to self or others, or if their behavior is disruptive or concerning, call JCPS immediately.
- If you decide not to intervene with a student, please be sure to report the situation immediately to the Dean of Students Office.
- Know your own personal boundaries in terms of what you feel comfortable assisting with and stick with it!
- If safe, meet with the student privately.
- Greet the student and ask them how things are going.
- Set a positive tone and be aware of your non-verbal communication (eye contact, posture, etc.).
- Speak clearly to the student and present your concerns related to specific behaviors you have observed.
- You may be trying to help the student see a different perspective, but do not challenge, shock, or become argumentative with the student.
- Use open-ended questions with empathy and support while avoiding judgment (i.e., what problems have that situation caused you?).
- Allow the student time to share their story. Allow silence and don’t give up if student is slow to begin talking.
- Restate what student is saying to you to show that you hear them and to help clarify what they are saying.
- SAFETY RISK? Do not be afraid to ask if the student is experiencing suicidal/homicidal thoughts. Asking that question does not put the idea into someone’s head.
- Ask the student what they think might help with their situation and then support the student in developing action steps and if needed, suggest campus resources and offer to help refer the student.
- Respect the student’s privacy without making promises of confidentiality.
- Foster a sense of hope and normalize distress (i.e., everyone struggles from time to time).
- Let the student know your limitations (i.e., time, expertise, etc.).
- Direct student to appropriate resource depending upon their concern (i.e., Dean of Students Office, Health Services, Glaeser Center for Counseling Services, etc.).
- Maintain positive attitude related to any student decision to seek help.
- Normalize help seeking behavior (i.e., students often seek help while in college to help meet their educational goals.).
- Remember that varying distress is normal and appropriate. Responding to distress is an opportunity for growth.
- Be clear with the student on what steps are needed to ensure safety.
- Encourage the student to make and keep appointments made with others (i.e., counseling, etc.).
- If a safety concern presents, do not leave the student alone. Find someone to stay with the student if needed while you call for additional help.
- Schedule a time to check back in with the student even after they have been connected with a resource to show continued care and interest in their wellbeing and to see if they have followed through with your referral.
- No matter how much you believe a student should seek out the resources you recommend, they may decline the offer for help. As long as they are not in immediate danger to self or others, that is ultimately their choice.
- If safety is a concern or in doubt, call Public Safety immediately.