Most Union College students are not from the immediate Capital Region area, meaning that when they first matriculate and/or return from a session break, they are leaving many of their support systems -- such as family and friends -- that they utilize. Although many students quickly establish new and equally effective support systems, a number of students find the various pressures very stressful, sometimes to the point where it interferes with their academic success, emotional well-being, or their ability to take advantage of the educational opportunities available to them at Union College. This lack of support may intensify during common session "crisis periods" such as mid-term, final exam, pre-holiday periods. As faculty and staff at Union College, you may encounter these distressed students looking to you for support.
We understand that there are many factors that are relevant to your willingness to respond, including your particular beliefs about the limits of a faculty or staff member's responsibility for helping students, or your personal style or philosophy. Other factors such as situational factors (class size, format), the student's openness to assistance, and a student's comfort in seeking out contact, may have a substantial effect on the type of interactions you can have with a student.
The likelihood is, however, that at some point in your tenure at Union College, you will come into contact with a student in distress and in need of psychological assistance. We are confident that faculty and staff can identify these students and offer valuable assistance. We have prepared a variety of information to assist faculty and staff in identifying, facilitating, and referring students in distress. We hope that the information and recommendations provided assist you in helping students in making optimum use of their educational experience at Union.
Employee Assistance Program
Faculty and staff are not eligible for Counseling Center services, but faculty and staff may receive similar services through the Employee Assistance Program offered through Union's Human Resources department. The services are offered through Employee Services; you can reach them at 1-(800) 252-4555 or www.theEAP.com.
Referring a student to the Counseling Center
Even when Union College students request help, they are often hesitant and embarrassed to do so. Thus, making referrals is a skill which necessitates tact, sensitivity, and sometimes, firmness. It is best, however, not to make the referral when the student is extremely upset or confused. Wait for the student to calm down before offering this suggestion. Making a referral will be much easier for both you and the student if you can relieve as many of their fears and answer as many of their questions as you reasonably can.
To facilitate a smooth referral, you can tell the student that:
- All information is kept strictly confidential.
- All records are kept separate from academic records and are protected by law.
- Counseling Center services are free.
- Seeking assistance is a healthy behavior. Students often feel that they must deal with their problems alone. You can point out that, while you are sure they are capable of doing so, their efforts might be enhanced by consulting with a professional.
- Meeting with a Counseling Center staff member is in the student's best interests due to the training and diversity of the staff.
If necessary, let them know that you would be willing to walk to the Counseling Center with them, especially if you feel that is the only way to guarantee the student comes in.
Emphasize strongly that that one visit does not obligate him/her to more visits. They and the Counseling Center staff member will decide if more meetings would be helpful.When making the referral, always...
- Provide the Counseling Center phone number (388-6161) and remind them that you would be willing to walk them over to Silliman Hall.
- Express your sincere concern for their welfare in behavioral, non-judgmental terms and your willingness to help them.
- Contact the Counseling Center to let us know about the referral if you feel this is necessary. Try to discuss the situation with the staff member before bringing the student in, barring that it is not an emergency. Let the student know that you will be contacting the Counseling Center. Emphasize that you are trying to make the referral easier for the student. Reassure the student that you will be discussing his/her strengths along with the reason for referral.
It is not uncommon for you to become aware of information that you believe the student's counselor should know. If this situation arises, rather than asking to speak with the student's counselor, it is best to contact the Counseling Center and speak with any counselor, even if the student has told you who they are seeing. Given the limitations of confidentiality, we cannot confirm that the student is being seen, let alone which clinician is seeing him/her. The clinician that you speak with will pass any information on to the relevant parties. This also assures the student's privacy.
After the referral is made...
It is reassuring to know if a student you referred to the Counseling Center has followed through. The best way to achieve this is to directly ask the student. This also shows the student that your are still concerned for their well-being. We will advise the student to confirm follow through with you. Concurrently, but secondarily, we will seek the student's permission to contact you directly for this purpose.
However, there will be times when the student will not grant us permission to contact you and will not wish to share this information with you. In these instances, both the Counseling Center and you must respect the student's wish for confidentiality, despite the discomfort this creates.Students in distress but not immediate danger
Students will exhibit various signs indicating that they are struggling academically or having difficulties in other domains. Below is a list of symptoms that students might exhibit if they are having difficulties, but are not at an immediate risk to themselves or others. Please note that this is not a comprehensive list and that not all of these symptoms have to be present to indicate a student is in need of help. If you are unsure of whether someone?s behavior is something to be concerned about, please contact the Counseling Center and we can help you in determining if something should be done.
- Significant decline in quality of work
- Excessive avoidance of their research and of meetings with advisors
- Listlessness, lack of energy, or frequently falling asleep in class or lab
- Repeated absence(s) from class, lab, or recitation
- Not handing in homework or assignments
- Coursework that is handed in expresses signs of anger, hopelessness, isolation, depression, or despair
- Dependency (e.g., the student makes an excessive amount of appointments to see you or needs excessive amounts of direction or guidance for simple tasks)
- Inappropriate disruptions or verbalizations in class
- Deterioration in physical presence or hygiene
- Exaggerated behaviors or personality traits, such as agitation, withdrawal, or blunted affect
- Normal emotions displayed at an extreme level or prolonged period of time, such as irritability, anxiety, or tearful behavior
- Unwarranted anger, hostility, or outbursts
- Significant changes in concentration or motivation
- Evidence of alcohol or other drug dependence or abuse
- Visible increases or decreases in weight
- Extreme fatigue or sleepiness in class
- Evidence of "cutting" behavior, such as knife-like cuts on arms
The following recommendations can be used if a student approaches you with a problem and/or if you decide to approach a student about some of the signs listed above.
- Talk privately to the student about your concerns.
- Listen carefully to what the student has to say.
- Be non-judgmental in expressing your concerns.
- Repeat back what the student has said to you to make sure you understand the essence of what is going on for them.
- Refer them to the Counseling Center and discuss the referral with the student.