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Referral guide for faculty and staff

Augustana faculty, staff and residence hall personnel often encounter distressed students, and can play a crucial role in identifying those who could benefit from counseling services. We offer these guidelines to assist you in recognizing students in distress, communicating effectively with them, and referring them for counseling:

Identifying distress signals

Students who exhibit a combination of these symptoms or behaviors over a sustained period of time should be of particular concern:

  • Sudden deterioration in academic work, frequent absences or tardiness, inappropriate or disruptive classroom behavior, papers with themes of distress
  • Dependency — the student hangs around you or makes excessive appointments to see you
  • Listlessness, lack of energy, falling asleep in class
  • Coming to class intoxicated or high
  • References to death or suicide; expressions of hopelessness
  • Physical changes, especially sudden weight loss or deteriorating personal hygiene
  • Withdrawal, isolation from others
  • Inability to make decisions despite your attempts to clarify and encourage
  • Excessive somatic complaints
  • High irritability, angry outbursts
  • Bizarre or strange behavior, such as unexplained crying, hearing voices, disorganized thinking, blatantly inappropriate comments or questions in class
  • Over-reaction to criticism or mistakes
  • Visible signs of depression or anxiety

Guidelines for interaction

The following guidelines will help you communicate effectively with distressed students:

  • Speak to the student in private, at a time when you have adequate time talk (ex: after class, not right before)
  • Listen carefully and show genuine interest and concern
  • Reflect back to the student what you hear him/her saying
  • Refrain from critical or judgmental comments or questions
  • Offer specific, non-judgmental descriptions of behaviors that concern you (ex: "I'm concerned that you've slept through class three times this week")
  • Try to determine if student has a support system (friends, family) and if so, are they reaching out to those people
  • Involve yourself only as much as you feel comfortable; be careful about getting overly involved
  • Describe the resources available on campus (Dean of Students, Counseling Service, Campus Ministry, Reading/Writing Center, etc.)
  • Give the student a sense of hope that things can improve with a new plan of action
  • If a student resists help and you are worried, contact either the Student Counseling Service (309-794-7357) or Dean of Students (309-794-7533) for a consultation

How to make a referral

Talking with faculty or staff can often help students work through minor problems or crises. However, if a student has a problem that seems outside your area of knowledge, if a student seems unimproved or worse after several meetings, or if a student is unwilling to discuss a problem with you, consider a referral to the Student Counseling Service. Of course, if a student is a potential danger to him/herself or to others, he/she should see a professional counselor immediately.

The following guidelines will help you in making a referral:

  • Suggest in a straightforward fashion that the student make an appointment at the SCS; explain that your referral is based on what the student has told you or what you have observed about their behavior
  • Reassure the student that it is normal to experience some problems during the college years and tell them that a large percentage of Augustana students seek help at the SCS during their time here
  • Ask the student to call the SCS at 309-794-7357
    • Note: some students may feel more comfortable calling to make the appointment from your office or having you call to make the appointment for him/her. This is fine with us!
  • If the situation is an emergency Founders Hall 206
  • if you are concerned about a student but are uncertain about the appropriateness of a referral, feel free to call one of our staff for a confidential consultation at 309-794-7357
  • After referring a student to the SCS, it is a good idea to have follow-up contact with that student to show that you continue to be interested in his/her welfare and to see if the student is doing better

How to respond if a student if volatile

The following tips are provided in the event a student becomes agitated, seems out of control or acts out:

  • If you feel unsafe or are concerned about the student's safety, contact Campus Security at 309-794-7711
  • If you feel comfortable and safe, ask the student to meet with you outside the classroom so you may speak privately
  • Remain CALM during the interaction; your demeanor can prevent the situation from escalating and may actually help the student calm down
  • Be respectful in your interaction, but set clear and firm limits: "I can see you are upset and I want to help you, but in order to do that I first need you to ..."
  • Be patient and listen carefully to both the verbal and non-verbal message the student is conveying; acknowledge that you understand their concerns and feelings
  • Be concrete in identifying the presenting issue and suggesting an immediate plan of action
  • Encourage the student to accompany you to the Counseling Service or to the Dean of Students Office to further discuss the situation
  • Respectfully inform the student of possible consequences should he/she continue to behave or act inappropriately (dismissal from class, contact security, etc.)