Faculty & Staff Resources

Faculty as Helping Resources for Students

This information is designed to assist you in becoming aware of signs of a distressed student. Included are indications of suicidal behavior, how to help a distressed student, and when and how to make referrals for additional help.

Warning Signs of Suicide

  • Situational: experience of a stressful or traumatic experience.
  • Emotional: agitation, apathy, crying, sadness, expressions of worthlessness, hopelessness, or helplessness.
  • Verbal: direct or indirect messages of suicidal intent, plan, or interest, verbally or in written material (assignments, papers, etc.)
  • Behavioral: giving away possessions, writing a suicide note, acquiring of means to commit suicide, organizing business and personal matters, suddenly resigning from organizations or clubs, (stopping coming to class without notice?)

Look for a cluster of signs. A suicidal person who gives warning signs will often present more than one. When the situation is not clear:

  • Share your concerns with the student directly to find out.
  • Consult the counselors at the Counseling Center

Tips for Recognizing Troubled Students

There are three levels of student distress which, when present over a period of time, suggest that the problems are more than "normal" ones.

Level 1   
Although not disruptive to others in the class, these behaviors may indicate that something is wrong and that help may be needed:

  • Serious grade problems
  • Unaccountable change from good to poor performance
  • Change from frequent attendance to excessive absences
  • Change in pattern of interaction
  • Marked change in mood, motor activity, or speech
  • Marked change in physical appearance

Level 2   
These behaviors may indicate significant emotional distress and a reluctance or inability to acknowledge a need for professional help:

  • Repeated request for special considerations
  • New or regularly occurring behavior which pushes the limits and may interfere with class management
  • Unusual or exaggerated emotional responses

Level 3  
These behaviors usually show that the student is in crisis and needs emergency care:

  • Highly disruptive behavior (hostility, aggression, etc.)
  • Inability to communicate clearly (garbled slurred speech, disjointed thoughts)
  • Loss of contact with reality (seeing or hearing things that are not there; beliefs or actions at odds with reality)
  • Overt suicidal talk, including a coherent plan
  • Homicidal and/or suicidal threats

What You Can Do to Help

Responses to Level 1 and Level 2 behavior

  • Talk to the student in private when you both have time
  • Express your concern in non-judgmental terms
  • Listen to the student and repeat the gist of what the student is saying
  • State the possible costs and benefits of each option for dealing with the problem from the student’s point of view
  • Respect the student’s value system
  • Ask if the student is considering suicide
  • Make appropriate referrals if necessary
  • Make sure the student understands what action is necessary

Responses to Level 3 behavior

  • Stay calm
  • Call emergency referrals listed below

Do's and Don'ts in Responding to Suicidality

  • Do show that you take the student’s feelings seriously
  • Do let the student know that you want to help
  • Do listen attentively and empathize
  • Do reassure that with help he or she will recover
  • Do stay close until help is available
  • Don’t try to shock or challenge the student
  • Don’t analyze the student’s motives
  • Don’t become argumentative
  • Don’t react with shock or disdain at the student’s thoughts or feelings
  • Don’t minimize the student’s distress

When to Make a Referral
Even though a student asks you for help with a problem and you are willing to help, there are circumstances when you should suggest other resources:

  • You are not comfortable handling the situation
  • The help necessary is not your expertise
  • Personality differences may interfere with your ability to help
  • You know the student personally (friend, neighbor, friend of a friend) and think you may not be objective enough to help
  • The student is reluctant to discuss the situation with you
  • You see little progress in the student
  • You feel overwhelmed or pressed for time

How to Make a Referral

  • Be frank with the student about the limits of your ability, expertise, and/or objectivity
  • Let the student know that you think she/he should get assistance from an appropriate resource
  • Assure them that many students seek help over the course of their college careers
  • Assist the student in choosing the best resource
  • Try to help the student know what to expect if she/he follows through on a referral

Consultation Is Available If you have concerns about a student, Staff Therapists at the UArts Counseling Center are available for consultation. In urgent situations, we will assist the student immediately.