Many times faculty are hesitant to ask questions related to well-being. Members of the faculty have expressed their worry about stepping over professional boundaries. We invite faculty to be active in asking questions in order to identify students that might be struggling and in need of psychological care. Don't ignore strange, inappropriate, or unusual behavior. Talk privately to the student in question, in a direct and matter-of-fact manner, indicating your observations and concerns. Be sure to focus on the behaviors that were displayed and express your concern about how these behaviors are impacting the student. Early feedback, intervention and/or referral can prevent more serious problems from developing.
Tips for talking to others about their struggles:
◦ Talk to the person in private when possible.
◦ Be genuine and direct; talk to them about what you have observed.
◦ Express your concern clearly - make observations, not judgments or assumptions.
◦ Remain calm. It can be challenging to stay away from sharing your own anxiety, irritation, or emotional reaction.
◦ Try to stay focused on the person's feelings or needs. Respectfully help the person focus on items that can be addressed.
◦ Don’t forget to listen and let them discuss their feelings and thoughts. This can relieve some pressure.
◦ Reflect what you hear, “What I hear you to be saying is __________.”
◦ Show empathy, “That must be really tough for you.” or “It sounds like you’re feeling really overwhelmed.”
◦ Assist the student in developing an action plan that addresses the most pressing concern.
◦ Do not underestimate the power of your connection to this person if you are close to him/her.
◦ Do not promise confidentiality. Rather, inform the person that you will use discretion in seeking outside assistance.
Examples of direct questions:
“I’ve been noticing ________, how are you feeling?”
“Have you ever had a period in your life before now when you’ve felt this way?
“What do you know about depression/anxiety?”
“Do you have an eating disorder?”
“Has anyone in your family gone through this before?”
Assisting A Student Who Might Be Reluctant To Seek Counseling
Unless a student is at risk for harm to self or others, counseling remains a voluntary option for students. Despite every effort on your part to facilitate a referral, the student may choose not to follow through on your suggestion that they seek counseling. If you find yourself in this situation, continue to express your belief that the student could benefit from counseling, and keep your offer of help available to the student. Reassure the student that the CAPS services are confidential, free of charge, and that counseling can be an empowering tool of change. Encourage the student to “try it and see how it goes”. Acknowledge, validate, and discuss the student’s fears and concerns about seeking help.