Admissions & Aid
There are three general categories of student behavior that can be signs of emotional distress: withdrawal, agitation or irritability, and personal communication from the student.
The faculty member is usually the first member of the college community to notice a troubled student. Here are a few steps toward helping the student in distress:
You may need to help the student recognize and understand that his or her problems require more extensive assistance. Your task will be to help the student overcome fears of, or resistances to, seeking professional assistance.
Some ways of communicating your support are:
Remind the student that all counseling is confidential. If the student is still reluctant, offer to call a counselor or to escort the student to the counselor’s office. Should the student feel threatened by your offer, do not pursue it. You can contact the counselor yourself and discuss the situation in confidence.
If the student accepts your suggestion, give the student the room and phone number of the Personal Counseling (0203 James Hall, 718.951.5363).
If the problem seems urgent, immediately contact the center director or another member of the Personal Counseling staff to let us know who you have referred and your assessment of urgency. Often, students do not communicate the urgency of their problem to the receptionist and may not be given an immediate appointment unless they do so.
Walk the student to the Personal Counseling, 0203 James Hall.
Bear in mind that a student need not be in crisis for you to refer him or her for counseling. A problem need not be overwhelming to have a negative impact on the student’s academic performance. Any problem that is affecting the student’s classroom behavior is sufficient reason.
Once referred to a counselor, an assessment will be done to determine whether the student can be seen on campus for crisis intervention or short-term counseling. If long-term counseling is necessary, the student will be referred to an appropriate treatment service (low-cost, if necessary).
Students in crisis require prompt attention. A student who is violent, physically hurt, overly distraught, or enraged may be considered a student in crisis.
For assistance, notify the appropriate offices of the college: Personal Counseling (0203 James Hall, 718.951.5363), the Vice President for Student Affairs (2113 Boylan Hall, 718.951.5352), and Campus and Community Safety Services (0202 Ingersoll Hall, 718.951.5511, 5512). You may want to familiarize yourself with the locations of these offices in advance so that you will know where to go in an emergency situation.
Maintain control of the situation by staying in communication with the student. Be aware of your own tolerance limits. Monitor your own ability to stay calm. If you feel you are going to panic, get someone else quickly:
Students whose emotions have overwhelmed their capacity to act appropriately require time to ventilate their emotions before they can regain control. When you encounter such a person, try to do the following:
A student’s disruptive behavior may be due to different causes. The student may be hostile and confrontational as a defense against his or her fear of failure. In this case the student regards the instructor as the obstacle to performing well. A second cause may be the student’s regressing to an earlier pattern of behavior as an (unconscious) attempt to alleviate his or her anxiety. Finally, the student’s disruptive remarks or movement in class may be a symptom of an underlying emotional disturbance which he or she can no longer manage as the demands on the student become too great.
It is important to determine what may be the cause of the student’s behavior. If you believe he or she is making you an “enemy” to deal with a fear of failure, it is necessary to reassure the student that you want him or her to do well, and that you know that being a student can be demanding. Should you conclude that the student is regressing under stress, remind him or her that you are willing to help while gently asking that the student accept the responsibility of behaving appropriately in class. If you decide that the student’s disruptive behavior is the result of a severe emotional disorder, escort the student to Personal Counseling (0203 James Hall, 718.951.5363) or Security (0202 Ingersoll Hall, 718.951.5511, 5512).
Here are some suggestions for escorting a disruptive student:
All suicide threats or implied threats should be taken seriously. Bring the student to the Personal Counseling Center (0203 James Hall, 718.951.5363) or, if the center is not open, refer the student to a suicide prevention hotline (212.673.3000) or any hospital emergency room.
Much of the material in this guide was originally adapted from How to Identify, Counsel and Refer Students Who Need Special Help, prepared by Dr. Matthew Lanna and the Counseling Center staff of Mercy College, and used with the permission of Dr. Rhea Riso, director of the counseling staff. It was further adapted with permission of Dr. Robert DeLucia, counseling director, from How to Identify, Assist and Refer Students With Emotional Problems and/or Disruptive Behavior, edited by Dr. Philip Bonifacio, Counseling Department, Division of Student Development, John Jay College of Criminal Justice (CUNY).