Saint Louis University

Responding to Emotionally Distressed Students: A Faculty and Staff Guide

As a faculty or staff member interacting daily with students, you are in an excellent position to recognize behavioral changes that characterize the emotionally troubled student. A student's behavior, especially if it is inconsistent with your previous observations, could well constitute an attempt to draw attention to her/his plight as "a cry for help."

Your ability to recognize the signs of emotional distress, and your courage to acknowledge your concerns directly to the student, often are noted by students as the most significant factor in their successful problem resolution. Often times our own feelings (i.e. uneasiness, anxiety, fear) can be excellent indicators that something is not quite right. If you ever have these types of feelings and are not quite sure what to do, this guide can be helpful.

In each of the links at the left, there are specific topic areas provided to assist you in managing situations that may arise or that you may observe in your classroom or office. Each topic area includes the type of referral recommended, urgent or non-urgent, along with the office(s) that should be contacted. For those topic areas that include multiple contacts, you need only speak to one of them. For all urgent referrals, you should speak to a person rather than leaving a message. If you are not able to speak to the first contact listed, move on to the next one or call the one whom you are most comfortable or have a working relationship. The contacts are not necessarily listed in an order of precedence because each situation can be different. The University Counseling Center will always be a safe choice for initial contact. If the situation deals with a disruptive student rather than a distressed student, the Office of Student Responsibility and Community Standards may be in a better position to assist. Remember, if you have concerns and would like to consult with someone, you can always call the University Counseling Center, the Office of Student Responsibility and Community Standards, the Office of Diversity and Affirmative Action, Student Support and Parent & Family Programs, and the Dean of Students to discuss possible options.

Finally, it is highly recommended that you document your observations of the student. Please click the attached link to write down your concerns and any communications that you may have had with other University officials, such as Counseling, Dean of Students Office, etc. The form will be viewed by those with a need to know and who can best assist. 

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