When a student is concerned about another…
Southern’s students are likely to be the most helpful resource in getting another fellow student connected to the appropriate campus resource through the Student Support Team (SST). Students often see and hear what a fellow student is really experiencing and, as a result, are the first to know when one of their friends, roommates, or peers is significantly struggling.
As a student, you may be the first to notice a fellow student who is experiencing difficulty. You do not have to take on the role of a counselor. You need only notice signs of distress and communicate these to either Counseling Services or the SST. If you feel comfortable, you may choose to have a conversation with the student to gather information, express concern, and offer support. Whether the student is a best friend, classmate, roommate/hallmate, significant other, teammate or fellow club member, the Student Support Team can be of assistance in getting that student connected with the resources that will best support them.
A note about safety…
If a student exhibits any indication that he or she may pose an immediate danger to him or herself or others, this should be addressed right away. In these cases, you should stay with the student and contact Counseling Services (203) 392-5475 or University Police (203) 392-5375. You can also walk the student to Counseling Services, located in Engleman B219, during the hours of 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Indicators of student distress…
Often, there are indicators that a fellow student is experiencing distress long before a situation escalates to a crisis. The presence of one of the following indicators alone does not necessarily mean that the individual is experiencing severe distress. However, the more indicators you notice, the more likely it is that the individual needs help. When in doubt, consult with the Dean of Students Office or a member of the SST.
- Missing assignments
- Deterioration in the quality of work
- A drop in grades
- Repeated absences from class
- A negative change in classroom or group work performance
- Verbal aggressiveness in class or group meetings
- Continual seeking of special accommodations (i.e. – late papers, extensions, postponed exams etc.)
- Essays or creative work that indicate extremes of hopelessness, social isolation, rage, or despair
- Disorganized or erratic performance
- Unprovoked anger or hostility
- Excessive dependency
- Expressions of hopelessness or worthlessness
- Loss of interest in activities that he/she once enjoyed
- Unusual or exaggerated response to events (i.e. – overly suspicious, agitated or startled)
- Exaggerated personality traits (i.e. – more withdrawn or animated than normal)
- Direct statements indicating distress, family problems, or other difficulties
- Expressions of concern about a student in the class by his/her peers
- Changes in typical clothing (i.e. – baggy clothing, long sleeves, inappropriate for weather etc.)
- Deterioration in physical appearance
- Visible changes in weight
- Lack of or deterioration of personal hygiene
- Excessive fatigue
- Appearing bleary-eyed, hung over, or smelling of alcohol
- Appearing sick or ill
- Statements to the effect that the student is “going away for a long time”
- Any written note or verbal statement that has a sense of finality
- Severe depression
- A history of suicidal thoughts or attempts
- Giving away prized possessions
- Self-injurious or self-destructive behaviors
- Out-of-control behavior
- Essays, papers, or social media posts that focus on despair, suicide, death, violence or aggression
- Verbal or written threats of harm to self or others
Tips for identifying students who need help…
The following is a list of things to consider if you encounter a fellow student who needs assistance or displays troubling behavior.
- Safety first – The welfare of the student and the campus community is the top priority when a student displays threatening or potentially violent behavior. Do not hesitate to call for help. The most effective means of preventing violence is providing coordinated profession help and follow-up care.
- Trust your instincts – If you experience any sense of uneasiness about a fellow student, or about what to do, it is important to pay attention to those signals. Seek consultation from a trusted Southern faculty or staff member, the Dean of Students Office or Counseling Services. Report safety concerns and potential conduct violations promptly.
- Be proactive – Engage with the fellow student that you are concerned about early on. If you are comfortable doing so, seek help from a trusted Southern faculty or staff member as soon as possible.
- Be direct – Don’t be afraid to ask another student if they are feeling confused or having thoughts of harming themselves or others.
- Listen sensitively and carefully – Use a non-confrontational approach and a calm voice. Avoid threatening, humiliating, and intimidating responses.
- Help them get help – Show interest and offer support. Offer to walk the student to the appropriate campus resource department, whether it is Counseling Services, the Dean of Students or another campus resource.
Examples of Conversation Starters
Are you concerned about a friend but not sure how to initiate a conversation with him or her? Below you will find a few suggestions that might help you in supporting and telling this student about the resources available to him or her on campus.
- “I can’t help but notice that you [list behaviors or concerns]. Have you talked with anyone about this?”
- “Do you have anyone on campus that you think could be really helpful to you right now?”
- “Let’s submit a Student Support Team referral so that a Student Support Team member can let us know how to work through these challenges.”
- “Who else on campus knows what you’ve been going through?”
- “Let’s go talk to a Student Support Team member together so we can get you connected to a few resources.”