Helping Emotionally Distressed Students

Concerned about a student?

CCHP would be happy to consult with you if you have concerns about a student.  Call the Director, Nancy Guilbeault at 612-330-1169, or the Assistant Director, Beth Carlson, at 612-330-1136.  After-hours, contact the Department of Public Safety (612-330-1717) if you have urgent safety concerns about a student.

Talking with a student about your concerns

•Talk in private.

•Be calm and matter of fact (this may help the student to manage their emotions).

•Focus on specific behaviors, not labels or diagnoses.

•Listen carefully and reflect back to the student what you are hearing.

•Convey your support and understanding of the pressure the student is experiencing.

•Help the student to identify options for addressing the problem.

•Set limits — don’t offer help beyond your comfort zone.

•Consult with CCHP if you are concerned about how to best help the student.

Referring a student to counseling

•Ask the student what ideas they have for support — they may already be thinking about getting counseling.

•Let the student know that you think it would be helpful for them to talk to someone about their concerns.  If you think CCHP would be a good resource, tell them that.

•Reassure the student that CCHP is used by many students who face normal concerns of dealing with college stress.

•Let them know that their discussions with a counselor at CCHP are completely confidential, and that the counselor will not share any information without their (written) permission.  (Know that there are exceptions to confidentiality in the case of imminent harm to self or others, but we will educate the student on this when they come to see us).

•Encourage the student to call CCHP at 612-330-1707 to set up an appointment, or walk over with them to show them where we are located and help them schedule.  Do not share any personal information with the front desk person, just introduce the student and tell the scheduler that the student would like an appointment.  Let the student take it from there.

•Let them know that it is their choice whether or not to go to counseling.

•Follow up at a later date to check in on how they are doing, and whether they followed up on your referral to CCHP.

What if the student is making references to suicide?

•Ask a direct question, “Have you been thinking about suicide?”  It is a myth that asking people will encourage them to consider suicide as an option.  Suicidal thoughts are quite common when someone is depressed.

•If it appears that the student has an actual suicide plan or does not feel safe, get help immediately by contacting CCHP (612-330-1707), and/or the Office of Student Affairs (Sarah Griesse at 612-330-1489, or Ann Garvey at 612-330-1168).

•If you feel like the student or another person is in immediate danger, or if the student’s behaviors are out of control, do not hesitate to contact the Department of Public Safety (612-330-1717).

•Trust your instincts.  If you feel this is serious, consult and get help.

Online Resources

“Assisting the Emotionally Distressed Student” discusses guidelines for intervention with students in many mental health and emotionally distressed situations.

Recognizing and Responding to Students in Distress:  A Faculty Handbook (a pdf from Cornell)  A very thorough handbook including sections on academic concerns, general concerns, mental health concerns, and traumatic experiences.  Also has information on what faculty can do to reduce student stress.