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Info for Faculty & Staff

University students typically encounter a great deal of stress (i.e., academic, social, family, work, and financial) during the course of their education experience. While most students cope successfully with the demands of college life, for some the pressures can become overwhelming and unmanageable. Students with difficulties have a number of resources available to them. These resources 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. 

In your role as faculty or staff, students may perceive you as someone who can lend a helping hand or be a good listener. Your expression of interest and concern may be a critical factor in helping a struggling student find appropriate assistance.
WHEN TO CONTACT
THE OUCC
RECOGNIZING
'TROUBLED' STUDENTS
PROVIDING
ASSISTANCE

When to contact the Counseling Center

Although not exhaustive, the following questions may point out a few instances and reasons for faculty and staff to consult with staff in the Counseling Center:
  • Are you concerned about a student's mental health?
  • Have you found a particular student to be intimidating?
  • Do you encounter student opposition and disruption in the classroom?
  • Are other students intimidated by another student's behavior?
  • Have you ever been concerned that a student might hurt him/herself or someone else?
  • Have you or are you concerned about student aggression?
If you have questions about our services and/or you want to consult with us about a student, please do not hesitate to call us. 

Faculty/staff consultations

If you have chosen to follow through with a student, you may still have some questions about how best to handle the situation.  Staff members at the Counseling Center would be pleased to help you:
  1. Assess the situation, its seriousness, and potential for referral.
  2. Learn about resources, both on- and off-campus, so that you can suggest the most appropriate help available when talking with the student.
  3. Find the best way to make a referral, if appropriate.
  4. Clarify your own feelings about the student and consider the ways you can be most effective.
For consultation with the Counseling Center, you can call the center at 248-370-3465, or stop by the Graham Health Center during regular working hours and let the receptionist know you want a faculty or staff consultation.


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All of us at some time in our lives have days where we may feel sad, depressed, and/or upset. However, significant distress experienced over a period of time may suggest a more serious problem.

Mildly troubled students
Mildly troubled students may exhibit behaviors which do not disrupt others but may indicate something is wrong and that assistance is needed. Behaviors may include:
  1. Serious grade problems or a change from consistently passing grades to unaccountably poor performance.
  2. Excessive absences, especially if the student has previously demonstrated consistent attendance.
  3. Unusual or markedly changed patterns of interaction, i.e., avoidance of participation, excessive anxiety when called upon, domination of discussions, etc.
  4. Other characteristics that suggest the student is having trouble managing stress successfully e.g., a depressed, lethargic mood; very rapid speech; swollen, red eyes; marked change in personal dress and hygiene; falling asleep during class.

Moderately troubled students

Moderately troubled students may exhibit behaviors that indicate significant emotional distress. They may also be reluctant or unable to acknowledge a need for personal help. Behaviors may include:

  1. Repeated requests for special consideration, such as deadline extensions, especially if the student appears uncomfortable or highly emotional while disclosing the circumstances prompting the request:
  2. New or repeated behavior which pushes the limits of decorum and which interferes with effective management of the immediate environment.
  3. Unusual or exaggerated emotional responses which are obviously inappropriate to the situation.

Severely troubled/disruptive students

Severely troubled/disruptive students exhibit behaviors that signify an obvious crisis and that necessitate emergency care. These problems are the easiest to identify. Examples include:

  1. Highly disruptive behavior (e.g. hostility, aggression, violence, etc.).
  2. Inability to communicate clearly (garbled, slurred speech; unconnected, disjointed, or rambling thoughts).
  3. Loss of contact with reality (seeing or hearing things which others cannot see or hear; beliefs or actions greatly at odds with reality or probability).
  4. Stalking behaviors.
  5. Inappropriate communications (including threatening letters, e-mail messages, harassment).
  6. Overtly suicidal thoughts (including referring to suicide as a current option or in a written assignment).
  7. Threats to harm others.



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Once you recognize a student who is need of assistance, follow the suggested steps below to ensure the student gets the help that they need. 

Student in distress
If a student wants to talk:
  • Accept and respect what is said.
  • Help determine what needs to be done or changed.
  • Try to focus on an aspect of the problem that is manageable.
  • Avoid giving advice, judging, evaluating, and criticizing.
  • Avoid easy answers such as, "Everything will be all right."
  • Help identify resources needed to improve things.
  • Help the person recall constructive methods used in the past to cope; get the person to agree to do something constructive to change things.
  • Offer yourself as a caring person until professional assistance has been obtained.
  • Trust your instincts and reactions.
  • Let others know your concerns.
  • Attempt to address the person's needs and seek appropriate resources.
  • Avoid contributing unnecessarily to the person's guilt or sense of failure.
  • Do not swear secrecy or offer confidentiality to the person.
  • Encourage the person to seek help.
  • Respect the student's value system, even if you don't agree.
  • When called for, let the person know you are worried about their safety.
  • If you are concerned the student may be feeling hopeless and thinking about ending their life, ask if she/he is contemplating suicide. It is important to remember that talking about suicide is a cry for help and is not to be ignored.
  • After the student leaves your office, make some notes documenting your interactions.
  • Consult with others on your experience.

Mildly troubled students
For these behaviors or problems you can choose to handle them in the following ways:
  • Deal directly with the behavior/problem according to classroom protocol.
  • Address the situation on a more personal level.
  • Consult with a colleague, department head, Dean of Students Office professional, or a campus counseling professional.
Refer the student to the appropriate University resource.

Severely troubled/disruptive student
For these behaviors or problems you can choose to handle them in the following ways:
  • Remain calm and know who to call for help, if necessary. Find someone to stay with the student while calls to the appropriate resources are made (i.e. Dean of Students, campus police, the Counseling Center).
  • Remember that it is NOT your responsibility to provide the professional help needed for a severely troubled/disruptive student. You need only to make the necessary call and request assistance.
  • When a student expresses a direct threat to themselves or others, or acts in a bizarre, highly irrational or disruptive way, call the Oakland University Police Department at (248) 370-3333.

Warning signs for when to refer a student for further assistance
Some signs that suggest problems for which the student should be referred for assessment are if the student:
  • Manifests a change in personality (goes from being actively involved to quiet and withdrawn, or goes from being quiet to more agitated or demanding).
  • Begins to display aggressive or abusive behavior to self or others; exhibits excessive risk-taking.
  • Shows signs of memory loss.
  • Shows loose or incoherent thought patterns, has difficulty focusing thoughts, or displays nonsensical conversation patterns.
  • Exhibits behaviors or emotions that are inappropriate to the situation.
  • Displays extreme suspiciousness or irrational fears of persecution; withdraws, does not allow others to be close; believes she/he is being watched, followed, etc.
  • Exhibits signs of hyperactivity (unable to sit still, difficulty maintaining focus, gives the impression of going "too fast," appears agitated).
  • Shows signs of depression (no visible emotion s or feelings, appears lethargic, loses weight, looks exhausted and complains of sleeping poorly, displays feelings of worthlessness or self-hatred, or is apathetic about previous interests).
  • Talks about unusual patterns of eating, not eating, or excessively eating.
  • Shows signs of injury to self, cuts, bruises, or sprains.
  • Experiences deteriorating academic performance (incapacitating test anxiety, sporadic class attendance, or extended absences from class).
  • Begins or increases alcohol or other drug use.
  • Makes statements regarding suicide, homicide, feelings of hopelessness, or helplessness.


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