Referring Students in Distress

University students often encounter a great deal of stress during the course of their academic experience. While some students cope with the stress that these years bring on their own, an increasing number of students find that the pressures of life are unmanageable or unbearable. Thus, it may be helpful for some students to be connected with psychological resources to improve mental health and facilitate growth. As faculty members, teaching assistants, or staff, you may encounter students who are distressed in your offices or your classrooms. In these moments, it is important to be informed of the role you can play in identifying and referring students who are distressed.

Signs/Symptoms of a Student in Distress

Guidelines for Interacting with a Student in Distress

How to Refer a Student in Distress to the Counseling Center

Services Offered at the Counseling Center

Additional Resources

For more information, please reference the Helping Students in Distress Folder produced by the Dean of Students Office available under the Faculty and Staff tab.

Signs/Symptoms of a Student in Distress

  • Excessive procrastination and very poorly prepared work, especially if this is inconsistent with previous work.
  • Infrequent class attendance with little or no work completed.
  • Dependency, e.g., the student who hangs around you or makes excessive appointments to see you during office hours.
  • Listlessness, lack of energy, or frequently falling asleep in class.
  • Marked changes in personal hygiene.
  • Repeated requests for special consideration, e.g., deadline extensions.
  • Impaired speech or garbled, disjointed thoughts.
  • Homicidal threats.
  • Behavior which regularly interferes with the decorum or effective management of your class.
  • Suicidal thoughts.
  • High levels of irritability, including unruly, aggressive, violent, or abrasive behavior.
  • Inability to make decisions, despite repeated attempts to clarify and to encourage.
  • Dramatic weight loss or weight gain.
  • Bizarre or strange behavior which is obviously inappropriate to the situation, e.g., talking to "invisible" people.
  • Normal emotions that are displayed to an extreme degree of for a prolonged period of time, e.g., fearfulness, tearfulness, nervousness, etc.

Guidelines for Interacting with a Student in Distress

  • Talk to the student in private.
  • Listen carefully.
  • Show concern and interest.
  • Reflect and paraphrase what the student has told you.
  • Avoid criticizing or sounding judgmental.
  • Consider the Counseling Center as a resource and discuss the referral with the student.
  • If the student resists help and you are worried, contact the Counseling Center to discuss your concerns.
  • Involve yourself only as far as you want to go. Extending yourself can be a gratifying experience when kept within realistic limits.

How to Refer a Student in Distress to the Counseling Center

  1. Suggest that the student call or come in to make an appointment. Give the student the Counseling Center's telephone number and location.
  2. If you wish to assist the student directly, call the receptionist at the Counseling Center while the student is in your office and hand them the phone. Students must make their own appointments, but you can write down the appointment information (date, time, counselor, and location) for the student.
  3. If the situation is an emergency (imminent danger to self or others), call ULPD or 911. In a crisis situation, follow #2 above, and state that "the student is in crisis and needs to be seen immediately." If the Counseling Center is closed, please refer to the information on our Emergencies page.
  4. Sometimes it is helpful for you to escort the student over to the Counseling Center, or call us to let us know you are encouraging a student to come to our office.
  5. Please note that due to confidentiality constraints, we are unable to "follow up" with you about whether a student has been seen or how they are doing, without that student's written consent.
  6. If you are concerned about a student but are uncertain about the appropriateness of a referral or what to say, feel free to call the Counseling Center at 852-6585 for a consultation. Thank you for helping support our students and their success!

Counseling Center
Cardinal Station
215 Central Ave., Suite 201
Louisville, Kentucky 40208

Office Hours

Fall 2017

M, Tu, Fri 8:00a to 5:00p

Wed, Thurs 8:00a-6:00p

URGENT WALK-IN CONSULTATIONS

M-F 8:30a to 4:30p

Closed on University holidays and closings. We observe delayed starts and early closings set by the University.

Phone

tel (502) 852-6585

Email

coping@louisville.edu
Note that email cannot be used to make appointments.