Psychologically Troubled Students
A Guide for Faculty and Staff
When a Student Needs Psychological Referral
A referral for psychological counseling should be considered when you believe a student’s problems go beyond your own experience and expertise, or when you feel uncomfortable helping a student with some issue. A referral may be made either because of the way the student’s problems are interfering with his or her academic work or with your teaching, or because observation of the student’s personal behavior raises concerns apart from his or her academic work.
Some more easily recognizable indicators that a student may be experiencing more stress than he or she can handle include:
- Marked decline in quality of course work, class participation, quality of papers or test results; increased absence from class, or failure to turn in work.
- Prolonged depression, suggested by a sad expression, apathy, weight loss, sleeping difficulty, tearfulness.
- Nervousness, agitation, excessive worry; irritability, aggressiveness, non-stop talking.
- Bizarre, strange behavior or speech.
- Extreme dependency on faculty or staff, including spending much of his or her time visiting during office hours or other times.
- Marked change in personal hygiene.
- Talk of suicide, either directly or indirectly such as, “I won’t be around to take that exam anyway” or “I’m not worried about getting a job, I won’t need one.”
- Comments in a student’s paper that arouse concern.
Each student experiences stress somewhat differently, and many disturbances in the 17 to 22-year-old age group are relatively transient. However, you may become alarmed by even brief changes which are extreme, or by significant changes that continue for some time. If there is doubt about the seriousness of the problem, consult a counseling center staff member about how to evaluate the situation and take the most appropriate steps.
If an emergency arises during the day, consult one of the staff members at CAPS. After hours, there is a 24-hour hotline (732-235-5700) professionally staffed by the community mental health center. If a student is actively suicidal, do not leave him or her alone, but send someone for help if possible. If a suicide attempt is actually in progress, notify the University Police (911, or from a University phone dial 9 for an outside line and then 911) to arrange medical care and transportation to a hospital.