Information for Faculty and Staff

Identifying and Referring Students in Need of Counseling Assistance

Recommendations for Faculty Members:

  • Understand the importance of your role in identifying and facilitating the referral of distressed students for counseling. For a variety of reasons, most students who have problems warranting counseling will not seek it on their own.
  • Recognize the signs of students having mental health difficulties. Common indicators are given below:
    • Decline in academic performance
    • Sleeping in class
    • Excessive absenteeism or tardiness
    • Noticeable change in weight
    • Failure to complete assignments
    • References to sadness/hopelessness
    • Unkempt appearance
    • Expressions of guilt
    • Tearfulness or crying
    • Irritability or angry outbursts
    • Appearing tired
    • References to being overwhelmed
    • Pessimistic outlook
    • Unusual emotional reactions
    • Rambling or incoherent speech
    • Strange or bizarre behavior
    • Restlessness
    • References to death or suicide
  • Schedule a private meeting with any student suspected of having significant problems. Prepare for the meeting by reviewing the student's record and reflecting upon the reasons for your concern. Have information about counseling and other resources available.
  • During the meeting with the involved student, express your concern and share observations of the student's behavior that led to the decision to intervene. Give specific examples in a matter of fact, non-judgmental way. As an illustration, one might say the following: “I've noticed that you have missed class five times in the last month, did not turn in your project, and you’ve appeared to nod off during class more than once. I overheard you tell someone in class that your parents are getting divorced and that you recently lost your job. I'm concerned about how you're doing." After giving your reasons for the intervention, elicit the student's reaction and if agreeable, refer to counseling immediately.
  • Depending upon the circumstances, it may be appropriate to seek the student's permission to follow-up with him/her later to see if counseling was sought and the outcome. This could provide the opportunity to encourage follow through if counseling was not sought.
  • If you have questions about how to handle this process or just need to talk to one of our staff about concerns you have about a particular student, we are available for consultation. Click here for more information on consultation or call (251) 460-7051.
  • The University Counseling and Testing Center has developed brief training modules for faculty and staff on 1) identifying students having mental health and/or substance abuse issues and 2) motivational interviewing, an evidence-based method of communicating with individuals ambivalent about behavioral change to include substance use. If you are interested in these training modules for your department or staff, please contact Dr. John Friend at 460-7915.