Please see the attachment titled “Working with Distressed Students” at the
bottom of this page for more detailed information
Develop a clear understanding of your role
with distressed and troubled students
Develop the basic tools and skills you are
expected to use in support of students
Develop an understanding of the ‘culture of
care’, and the resources available to students
Identifying signs of distress
Engaging the student
Attending to the student
Clarifying the level of seriousness
Brainstorming solutions to the problem
Referring and communicating
Responding to the immediate crisis
1. You’re an RA, not a counselor
2. Mind your boundaries
3. Never promise anything you can’t deliver
4. Do something…but don’t do too much
5. Do the best you can
7. Take care of yourself
95% of counseling center directors report
that the amount of students with severe
psychological problems on college campuses
continues to increase.
Up from 81% in 1995.
Ratio of students:hospitalizations: 1000:1.3
The reality: More and more students with
significant psychological struggles enter
colleges each year.From American College Counseling Association Directors Survey, 2008).
Within the last 12 months:
48.0% felt that things were hopeless
78.4% felt overwhelmed
65.4% felt very lonely
61.5% felt very sad
40.4% felt overwhelming anxiety
NCHA Survey at Occidental College, 2011
N = 75
5.8% seriously considered suicide
11.5% intentionally cut, burned or bruised
36% felt so depressed that it was difficult to
39.4% felt overwhelming anger
Alcohol and Substance Abuse
Master your Body Language=Master the Situation
Oh Yeah, it’s My Job!
Know your Role, Know your Limits
Secure a Private Place
Ask for Permission
Express Concern about a Specific Behavior/Pattern
Slow the Pace
When in Doubt, Call for Support
Speak to the Person: Use First Name
Monitor and Observe Responses
Roles to Avoid
Don’t analyze, interpret or diagnose
Don’t become a parent or a therapist
Don’t order, command or tell a student what to
Don’t minimize the student’s concerns
Avoid “Should-ing” students
Take in Information from All Sources
Continually Observe the Student
Utilize Open Ended Questions
Use Scaling Questions
Ask the Tough Questions
Know the Campus, Know the Resources
First, Let the Student Take the Lead
Focus on the Solution
Discuss Referrals as Possibilities
Make the Referral Concrete
Signs of Mental Health Crisis
Student directly acknowledges suicidal thinking. While suicidal
thoughts are not uncommon in depression, and are not necessarily a
sign of imminent danger, it is important to respond as if the student
may be at risk.
Student reports thoughts and suicide plans/fantasies
Student is suicidal and has immediate access to dangerous objects
Student displays signs of self-harm and self-endangerment
(cutting, driving drunk)
Student behaves in a hostile and threatening manner
Student seems highly disoriented, delusional or paranoid
Ensure that the Student is Safe
Make the Call
Maintain your Presence
Stay with the Student
What signs of distress do you notice?
What do these signs tell you?
What is the primary issue in this scenario?
How might you first engage the student?
What referrals might you provide?
What seems to be the most challenging
aspect(s) of the scenario?