Referring a Student to Us

As a Wayne State University professor or university staff, you may observe students in distress. This is not an uncommon phenomenon among university college campuses. University students may find themselves under abnormally high levels of stress during their academic career. Many students can cope well, while others cannot. Here are ways you can help:

Role of Faculty and Staff
How to Talk to With a Student in Distress
When to Refer a Student Immediately
When to Refer a Student Who is Not in Crisis

Role of Faculty and Staff

  • Identify students who are in need of crisis intervention or counseling assistance. If a student's stress level becomes unmanageable, you may witness some or all of the following:
    • Changes in behavior or academic functioning
    • Poor memory, concentration, and/or attention
    • Diminishing classroom attendance
    • Changes in personal hygiene/appearance
    • Changes in mood, such as: increased apathy, irritability or anger
    • Suicidal, homicidal, or unusual statements or behaviors
    • Increased isolating behaviors
    • Suspicion of drug or alcohol abuse
  • Tell a student you have identified that you wish to speak to them after class (this should be done in a private venue). Let the student know you are concerned about them and pick a mutually agreed upon private space to talk.
  • Provide information about CAPS to students
  • Provide resources to the students
  • Offer to walk the student to the CAPS office or offer to allow the student to call CAPS from your office.

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How to Talk With a Student in Distress

  1. You may not want to wait for a student to ask for help when s/he is in distress.
  2. You can take the initiative – invite the student to speak to you privately.
  3. Once together in a private place with the student, comment on what you have observed and express your concerns.
  4. If a student discloses a problem, try to allow him or her to discuss it openly.
  5. You can covey your support by listening in a calm, accepting, and non-judgmental manner.
  6. Acknowledge their emotions, let the student talk, and paraphrase what has been said.
  7. You may want to assess the situation with the student and ask for comments and come to a conclusion together.
  8. Don't feel that you need to be qualified to deal directly with the student's concerns. Let her/him know that professionals are available on campus to deal with such problems and give them the CAPS phone number and location.

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When to Refer a Student Immediately

If a student is presenting any of the following symptoms: 

  • Talking about death or suicidal ideas
  •  Marked shifts in quality of performance
  • Marked shifts in behavior
  •  Drastic changes in personal appearance or hygiene

Crisis Situations:

  • If you fear immenent harm may come to a student or others, call WSU Police 313-577-2222.
  • If you do not fear immenent harm, but worry that a student might harm themselves or someone else in the near future, strongly encourage the student to call CAPS (313) 577-3398 right away or (313) 577-9982 after hours or on the weekend.
  • If the student will not agree to call, you can call CAPS with your concern and receive one-to-one consultation from one of the staff counselors on how best to respond to your situation.

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When to Refer a Student Who is Not in Crisis

If a student is presenting a combination of one or more of these symptoms:

  • Complaints of inability to concentrate
  • New troubles in memory
  • Apathy, chronic fatigue, falling asleep in class
  • Social behavioral changes
  • Stammering
  • Inability to sit still
  • Emotional outbursts
  • Somatic complaints, frequent illness
  • Report of a life crisis (death/loss of a loved one or serious illness)
  • Previously outgoing person becomes withdrawn
  • Talking about feeling sad or helpless
  • Increase in alcohol or drug use

If you are worried about a student's safety, ask the student to sign a release of information to you so you can follow-up to make sure they connected with CAPS. You can have a release form sent to you, or you can alert CAPS staff to ask the student to sign a release when they arrive for services.

*Please note that it is completely voluntary on the part of the student and if they opt not to sign a release, do not take it personally. There may be compelling reasons that you are not aware of, as to why they would not want to disclose to you.

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