Assisting Students in Distress
The information below is designed to give you information that you might find helpful when confronted with a difficult student situation. You may have concerns about a student’s behavior or see signs of psychological distress that could affect the student’s academic and personal success. This page provides information that can assist you in early detection and effective referral. Contact information is provided along with relevant resources. Please don’t hesitate to contact one of the numerous resources and obtain assistance and support.
On Campus Resources
- Public Safety (emergencies)/: 4911 or 240-895-4911
- Academic Services / Office of Student Success (OS3): 4388 or 240-895-4388
- Counseling & Psychological Services: 4289 or 240-895-4289
- Health Services: 4289 or 240-895-4289
- International Education: 4202 or 240-895-4202
- On-Call Professional (A Student Affairs professional staff member is on-call after normal work hours): 4911 or 240-895-4911
- Residence Life: 4207 or 240-895-4207
- CARE Team / Campus Assessment Response & Evaluation Team: Concerning Behavior Referral
- VP of Student Affairs: 4208 or 240-895-4208
Off Campus Resources
- 24 Hour Crisis Helpline 240-895-4200 or 855-826-1869
- Ambulance/Fire/Police: 911
- Southern Maryland Center for Family Advocacy (SMCFA): 301-373-4141; smcfa.net; firstname.lastname@example.org
- 24 Hour Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Hotline: 240-925-0084
- Maryland’s Helpline: Call or Text 988
Characteristics of Troubled or Distressed Students
- Extremely poor academic performance or a change from high to low grades.
- Excessive absences, especially if prior class attendance was good.
- Unusual or noticeably changed interaction patterns in the classroom or living areas.
- Depressed or apathetic mood, excessive activity or talkativeness, evidence of crying.
- Noticeable change in appearance and hygiene.
- Alcohol on breath/problem drinking patterns.
- Inability to stay awake in class.
- Repeated attempts to obtain deadline extensions or postpone tests.
- New or continuous behavior which disrupts your class or student interactions.
- Inappropriate or exaggerated emotional reactions to situations, including a lack of emotional response to stressful events.
- Seeking help from multiple other parties instead of counseling professionals.
- Violent or other extremely disruptive behavior.
- Obvious loss of contact with reality.
- Disturbed speech or communication content.
- Suicidal or other self-destructive thoughts or actions.
- Homicidal threats
Warning Signs for Suicide
- Some behaviors may indicate that a person is at immediate risk for suicide. The following behaviors should prompt you to immediately call the Public Safety (4911 or 240-895-4911), the 24 Hour Crisis Helpline 240-895-4200 or 855-826-1869, Maryland 988, the Wellness Center (4289 or 240-895-4289), another mental health professional, or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255)
- Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself.
- Looking for a way to kill oneself, such as searching online or obtaining a gun or other deadly weapon.
- Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live.
Other behaviors may also indicate a serious risk
- Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain.
- Talking about being a burden to others.
- Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs.
- Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly.
- Sleeping too little or too much.
- Withdrawing or feeling isolated.
- Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.
- Displaying extreme mood swings.
How to Intervene
Whenever any of the signs of distress are present and a student is not functioning at an optimum level, a referral to the Wellness Center could be warranted. Faculty and Staff will hear from students about their personal difficulties. Often an empathic listener or a trusted mentor can provide the support, guidance, or perspective to sufficiently help a student through a difficult situation or time in their life. There are times, however, when the help of professionals trained to deal with psychological issues and problems are warranted and when your involvement with the student should be more delicate.
When to Refer
- A student asks for help with a problem outside your realm of expertise.
- You believe the student has crossed a line in communicating about things that
are too personal.
- The student feels uncomfortable talking to you about the problems.
- What you have done so far has not sufficiently helped reduce the problem.
- The student’s behavior is disrupting others.
- Helping the student could represent a conflict of interest or dual relationship
and compromise your objectivity.
- You are having a strong emotional reaction to the student’s situation, e.g.
feeling overwhelmed, overly responsible, afraid, or tired.
- You are extremely busy or stressed, or unwilling or unable to offer the necessary.
How to Refer
- Talk to the student in private.
- Express concern, while being specific about troubling behaviors.
- Listen empathically.
- Remain neutral.
- Suggest to the student that it would be helpful to talk to someone at the
Wellness Center who is trained to address the concerns. Have the student call
to schedule an appointment from your office, if willing to do so.
- Demystify and de-stigmatize counseling as necessary.
- Call a counselor yourself to consult about the student.
- Obtain emergency help through Public Safety if necessary.
- Follow up with the student to find out if the appointment was kept. Do not
inquire about the details of the session; rather, show interest in knowing that
the student is getting needed help and support.
- Submit a Beacon alert or notify a member of the Care Team
regarding any students about whom you are concerned.
- Call the 24 Hour Crisis Helpline 240-895-4200 or 855-826-1869
- Submit a CARE Referral: Concerning Behavior Referral
- It is a misperception that faculty and staff cannot communicate with others about students of concern. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. The law applies to all schools that receive funds under an applicable program of the U.S. Department of Education. However student behaviors that you observe that may be disruptive or concerning, are not part of an educational records, and therefore are not governed by FERPA. You can and should communicate with appropriate professionals and enlist the help of resources regarding the student of concern. Sensitivity for privacy and relevance of the information shared when doing so is also good practice. Under FERPA, you may disclose records without consent:
- To school officials with legitimate educational interest, i.e. a need to know.
- Appropriate officials in cases of health and safety emergencies.
- The CARE Team is a multidisciplinary proactive campus threat assessment and behavioral intervention team dedicated to improving campus safety through a coordinated, objective approach to prevention, identification, assessment, intervention, and management of situations that may pose a threat to the safety and well-being of individuals and the college community.
- Except for individuals who have legally protected confidentially, all “responsible employees” of the College including faculty, coaches, administrators, and Public Safety employees — are required to share with the Title IX Coordinator any report of sexual harassment, sexual violence, stalking, or relationship violence they receive or of which they become aware.When talking with someone who experienced sexual misconduct, listen to them; don’t be judgmental; let the person make their own decisions; respect their privacy to the extent possible; encourage the person to get help; and be present in the conversation. When you make a report, please do your best to make sure the person understands the following:
- That you are obligated to report the facts of the incident, including the identities of the parties, to the Title IX Coordinator or other appropriate College officials.
- That the person may request that the College not share their name or other identifiable information or that no formal action be taken. The Title IX Coordinator will evaluate these requests.
- That there are confidential resources available.
- That the person has the right to file a Title IX complaint with the College and to report a crime to law enforcement.
- Even if the person wishes to remain anonymous, you are still required to make a report if any information has been revealed to indicate that the College’s policy against sexual misconduct may have been violated.
- How to file a a Title IX report:
- Contact Title IX Coordinator email@example.com, 240-895-4105, Lucille Clifton House, dev.smcm.edu/titleix
- Contact Public Safety: 240-895-4911, dev.smcm.edu/publicsafety
Other Reporting Mandates
The policy on reporting child abuse and neglect can be found at: Child Abuse Policy