Responding to Students in Distress
Guidelines for Faculty and Staff
The Role of Counseling Services
The goal of Counseling Services at Louisiana Delta Community College is to promote the overall educations programs of the College by assisting students to learn healthy and adaptive coping skills as well as developing insight and resiliency. Counseling can focus on academic concerns such as increasing organization skills, time management, and effective study habits. Or, counseling may address personal concerns such as stress management, depression, anxiety, and substance abuse disorders. Additionally, the Office of Student Counseling and Disability Services can refer students to local resources, if necessary.
Counseling services are free, confidential, and available to all enrolled LDCC students. The Director of Student Counseling and Disability Services is a licensed professional counselor and is trained to provide mental health counseling. The LDCC Office of Student Counseling supports the academic success and personal experience of all students.
Identifying the Distressed Student
Over the course of their career at Louisiana Delta Community College, it is likely that faculty and staff will come into contact with a student they find challenging. It is important to understand the difference between a student having a bad day and a student who may need mental health treatment or intervention. All students go through a time of adjustment when they begin college. It is normal for students to feel anxious and sad to some degree within the first three months of beginning college, as they try to figure out how and where they fit. Concern should come when the distress to the student is in excess of what would be expected or if there is significant impairment in social, educational, or occupational functioning. Whether a student is having difficulty with the transition to college, depression or anxiety, help is available. Staff are not expected to diagnose a student situation, but are asked to recognize when a student is in trouble and to connect them to the Office of Student Counseling. The Director of Student Counseling can then assess the situation and assist the student.
Adjustment Disorder- Stressors that can cause Adjustment Disorder include divorce, loss of employment, becoming a parent, retirement, death of a friend or family member, illness or injury. If a student has recently experience one or more of these stressors, along with the stress of beginning college, their adjustment may be more difficult.
Anxiety- Many students suffer from anxiety. Some never make it to the classroom because of that anxiety. In the classroom, anxiety might look like: excessive worry, feeling on “edge”, panic attacks, avoiding speeches or group projects, leaving class early, fear of failure or criticism.
Depression- Periods of sadness are a normal part of the human experience; however, diagnosable depression is persistent and causes significant distress. If it appears that a student might be depressed, it is important to not assume that someone else in the student’s life will intervene. One of the characteristics of depression is isolation. An instructor may spend more time with a student than anyone else all day. There are ways that depression manifest itself in the classroom. For example, the instructor might notice: sadness, inability to concentrate, missed classes, decreased motivation, isolation, decrease in personal hygiene, and a change from previous functioning.
Tips for Responding to Students in Distress
If a staff member suspects that a student is suffering from depression or anxiety, they should express their concern to the student and refer them to the Office of Student Counseling. Sometimes it is hard to know how to approach the student or what to say to a student who appears to be in distress:
- If appropriate, invite the student to an office or a private place to talk rather than addressing the issue in a public place or in the classroom.
- Gain an understanding of why the student is upset. This will determine if the student is having a bad day or if they need intervention. Start the conversation by saying, “If you want to tell me what is upsetting you, I’m here to listen” or a similar conversation starter.
- Use active listening and repeat back to the student what they just said. Depending on the situation, staff may respond by say, “You sound very upset, what can I do to help?” or “You sound very upset, is it OK if I call the Counselor to talk with you?”
- If the student’s issue is one that the staff member does not feel qualified or comfortable discussing, the staff member should contact the Office of Student Counseling. One question to consider is “Is the student’s response in excess of their stressor?” If so, intervention is warranted. Also, when it comes to helping students who are upset, in crisis or simply having a bad day, it is important for staff to evaluate their own comfort level. If staff feel uncomfortable or that they are entering territory they are not qualified to handle, contact the Office of Student Counseling.
Responding to a “Clingy” Student
Instructors sometimes encounter a student who has become very comfortable with them, the “clingy” student. Some students bond very quickly, especially with an instructor who has helped them through some sort of stressor. Sometimes, instructors must set boundaries with students who do not understand the instructor-student roles. It is not appropriate for a student’s instructor to act as the student’s “counselor.” This puts the instructor in an awkward situation, especially when they are giving a grade at the end of the semester. To address the situation, it is important for the instructor to be clear and firm. An instructor might say, “Did you have the opportunity to stop by the Office of Student Counseling to discuss these issues? I really think it would be helpful. Let’s call over and see if we can make you an appointment” or “As your instructor it is important that we focus on your academics and progress in my class. However, we do have an office on campus that might be a great resource for you.”
Counseling Services Contact Information
Staff who observe a student who needs assistance should encourage them to meet with the Director of Student Counseling. Regardless of the type of stress the student is experiencing, this office can help.
Staff may accompany the student to the Office of Student Counseling or assist them in telephoning to schedule an appointment. If the staff member believes that the student needs immediate assistance from the counselor, they may contact the Office of Student Counseling and describe the situation so that appropriate intervention may be arranged.
In person: Room 155, Monroe Campus
By phone: 318-345-9152