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Recognizing and Assisting Individuals in Distress
Faculty, staff and students may encounter someone who is struggling with emotional pain. Many individuals become overwhelmed by stress at some point in college or life. Additionally, a few people experience traumatic events such as sexual assault, discrimination, hate crimes and/or sexual harassment.
By being available, aware, and ready to listen, you can play an important role in helping an individual regain the emotional balance needed to cope and get back on track.
How will I recognize that a person is in distress?
Some of the most common signs include poor academic or work performance, excessive absences, repeated requests for special help, avoiding or dominating discussions, excessive anxiety when speaking in class, disruptive behavior, troubling emails, Facebook remarks, and references to suicide or isolation from family.
What red flags signs should I look for?
- Depressed mood
- Angry outbursts
- Change in personal hygiene
- Dramatic weight loss or gain
- Strange or bizarre behavior
But I’m not a counselor, how can I possibly help?
You can approach the individual privately and offer to listen. Give the person your undivided attention. Listen and don’t judge. Brainstorm possible solutions. Express your concern. Let the person talk. Give hope. Suggest resources – counseling, family, and friends.
Be clear about your boundaries by maintaining respect for the individual and the nature of your relationship. If you are a peer, express your concern as a friend.
I’ve listened, but it isn’t helping. What do I do next?
Referral (CDSW) is very appropriate when any of the following is happening:
- The problem is more serious than you feel comfortable handling
- You are very busy, stressed, or unable to effectively listen
- You have helped as much as you can and further assistance is needed
- You think your own feelings will interfere with your objectivity
- He or she admits there is a problem, but doesn’t want to talk to you about it
- He or she asks for more information or help than you can provide
Responding to Threatening or Potentially Dangerous Individuals
An individual whose behavior has become threatening, disruptive, or violent requires a different kind of approach. A very small number of people become aggressive when they are extremely frustrated by a situation that seems beyond their control. Although rare, it’s important to know how to respond.
If you feel uneasy about someone’s behavior:
- Respect your unease and discuss the situation with a colleague, department chair, CDSW or the UCARE committee.
- Identify exactly what is bothering you
- Consider meeting with the individual to ask them to change the problem behavior
- Make sure that others are nearby when you meet with the individual
- Refer individuals for help (CDSW 573-341-4211)
If a threatening or violent situation occurs during class:
- Ask the student to accompany you to discuss the situation in the department office
- Avoid being alone or isolated with the student
- Seek help from campus police or consult with CDSW staff
If you are alone with an angry, verbally abusive, or physically threatening student:
- Acknowledge the student’s anger and frustration calmly; “I can see how upset you are because you feel no one is listening to you”.
- Allow the student to vent feelings and frustrations
- Calmly tell the student that the abusive behavior is unacceptable
- Avoid arguing, shouting, becoming hostile or threatening
- Don’t touch the student
- Leave the situation if possible
- Get help from campus police who are available 24/7 (573-341-4300) or call 911
Would you summarize the places to go for help on the S&T campus?
Counseling, Disability Support, and Student Wellness - CDSW (573-341-4211)
- Professional counselors and psychologists provide free and confidential services to students, faculty and staff
- Crisis intervention services and after hours assistance by calling S&T police
- Individual and group counseling
- Reasonable and appropriate accommodative services to ensure equal access (Student Accomodation Request)
- Comprehensive wellness program
- Personalized wellness consultations
- Wellness and prevention initiatives (Student Wellness)
Student Health (573-341-4284)
- Medical services
Missouri S&T UCare Task Force (573-341-4292)
- Reviews problematic situations on campus and offers intervention and consultation
Missouri S&T Campus Police (573-341-4300)
- Campus concern
- Any and all serious emergency