How You Can Help
Behavior that is inconsistent with past experience may constitute a need for help. Warning signs that a student is in distress include: nervousness, increased irritability or undue abrasive behavior, poorly-prepared work, change in attendance patterns, marked change in personal hygiene, and/or excessive social isolation with alarming behavior. If you identify these or other unusual signals in a student, we offer these guidelines in helping your students:
- Listen to the student. Request to talk with the student and listen carefully to the student. While you should respect the student’s privacy, you should also consider your comfort level and personal safety. If you choose to meet with a student in your office, you may consider asking another instructor to join you.
- Do not ignore unusual and/or inappropriate behavior. Share specific concerns about behavior with the student. The student should be informed that such behavior is distracting and inappropriate. Address concerns as quickly as possible; do not wait for behaviors to escalate.
- Understand your role. Make careful observations about concerning behaviors, address those behaviors, and make an appropriate referral.
- Write detailed notes about the student’s behavior and your concerns. These notes can be extremely helpful when a student needs to be referred to another department for assistance.
- Refer to the Counseling Clinic. If you believe that the student might benefit from professional counseling, refer the student to the Counseling Clinic (581-3413). In an emergency during normal business hours, you may contact the Counseling Clinic receptionist and request to speak to the staff member on call. Clearly identify yourself to the receptionist as a faculty or staff member and explain the specific services you are requesting.
- Additional resources. Other offices which may be of help in providing support to staff and students in such situations are: Medical Clinic (Administrative Line: 581-7015) and Student Accountability & Support (581-3827).
- After hours help. If you encounter an emergency situation after business hours, you may reach a local crisis counselor by calling 1-866-567-2400. As always, University Police may be reached for assistance by dialing 911 or activating a blue emergency phone.
Students who struggle and exhibit changes in their behavior also often benefit from academic support as well as psychological, medical, or judicial help. The Student Success Center (McAfee Gym, Room 1336, 217-581-6696 and online) provides academic support services and serves as a coordinating clearinghouse for the comprehensive array of academic support services available throughout the University community. Referrals can be made online, by phone, or in person. Faculty members are encouraged to inform their department chair of such concerns and action plans.
If you are concerned about a student and unsure about what action to take, do not hesitate to call the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs (217-581-3221). Timely reporting of concerns is extremely helpful. Some helpful information can also be found at the Counseling Clinic's website and the Student Accountability & Support website.
Additionally, a resource entitled "Assisting Students in Distress" is available.