Helping Students in Distress
Students typically encounter a great deal of stress during their university years. It often involves situations relating to academics, social life, family, work, finances, etc. While most students cope successfully with the demands of university life, for some, the pressures can become overwhelming and unmanageable. Students may feel alone, isolated, helpless and even hopeless. These feelings can easily disrupt academic performance and may result in harmful behaviors such as substance abuse and attempts at suicide.
Faculty and staff members are in a unique position to identify and help students who are in distress. This may be particularly true for students who cannot or will not turn to family or friends. Anyone who is seen as caring and trustworthy may be a potential resource in times of trouble. Your expression of interest and concern may be a critical factor in helping struggling students reestablish emotional equilibrium, thus saving their academic careers or even their lives.
What Can You Do?
Become familiar with the symptoms that may indicate that a student is distressed. The resources given below can help you recognize the symptoms and offer specific options for intervention. Also provided is a list of available campus and community resources. These may assist you with problem situations and provide avenues for consultation if you decide to intervene with a particular student.
When in doubt about the advisability of an intervention, contact the Personal Counseling Office during normal office hours. After 5:00 p.m. on weekdays or anytime during the weekend, contact Police Services who can mobilize appropriate emergency support. In addition, crisis services are provided 24/7 by Safe Harbor Behavior Health (814-456-2014) for mental health emergencies.
- Tips for Recognizing Distressed Students
- Students in Distress Online Workshop - An online educational program (including streaming video examples) designed to help faculty and staff recognize students in distress and make appropriate referrals for assistance. In addition, each of the Penn State campuses has their own video of the workshop for use by presenters at the campuses.
- Confidentiality and FERPA
- Critical Incident Response Team (CIRT)
- Campus Ministries
- Disability Services
- Health and Wellness Center
- Police Services
- Safe Zone Behrend (GLBT)
- Safe Harbor Behavior Health (crisis services), 814-456-2014