As a member of the faculty or staff here at Georgia Tech or as a family member of a student, you are constantly interacting with students. At times you may encounter students who are in crisis situations or who are under inordinate amounts of stress. You are more likely to see these students around mid-term and final exam periods.
What to Look For
There are some clear signs that a person may need professional help. These include:
- Moodiness: Feelings of helplessness, depression, social isolation and withdrawal. Suicidal thoughts may be indicated by some seemingly nonchalant statement like, "it just doesn't seem worth it anymore."
- Problems with School: Poor classroom performance or erratic attendance. These may signal a deeper, non-academic problem, especially if it is inconsistent with the student's previous record.
- Inability to Concentrate, Constant Worrying or Anxiety: Being easily distracted, fidgety, shaky; having memory distortions or lapses, having trouble sleeping.
- Anti-Social Behavior: Verbal or physical aggression, being "out of control", difficulty communicating or relating to others, demanding so much of your time and attention that you feel uncomfortable or irritated.
- Change in Physical Appearance, Mood or Behavior: These include sudden weight gain or loss, loss of interest in physical appearance or schoolwork, and mood changes, including a sudden lifting of depression.
- Alcohol or Other Drug Abuse: Indications of excessive drinking, drug abuse or drug dependence
- Excessive procrastination
- Uncharacteristically poor preparation or performance
- Repeated requests for extensions or special considerations
- Disruptive classroom behavior
- Career or course indecision
- Excessive absence or tardiness
- Avoiding or dominating discussions
- References to suicide or homicide in verbal statements or writing
- Asking instructor for help with personal problems
- Dependency on advisor
- Hanging around office
- Avoidance of advisor
- Disruptive Behavior
- Inability to get along with others
- Complaints from other students
- Change in personal hygiene
- Dramatic weight gain or loss
- Frequently falling asleep in class
- Unruly behavior
- Impaired speech
- Disjointed thoughts
- Intense emotion
- Inappropriate responses
- Difficulty concentrating
- Physically harming self
If you have noticed any of these warning signs, you are faced with the decision of whether or not to intervene. Although your faculty appointment is demanding, your interest in your student’s well-being can make an important difference to a person in distress. If you decide to make an intervention, here are some suggestions:
If you decide to make an intervention
- Talk to the student privately to help minimize embarrassment and defensiveness.
- It is helpful to use "I" statements rather than "you" statements.
- Tell the student why you think counseling would be helpful and make it clear that this recommendation represents your best judgment based on the student's behavior.
- Tell them a few facts about the Counseling Center. For instance, all services are free to enrolled students.
- Avoid making promises to keep information shared confidential.
- Listen carefully to the student and respond to both the content and the emotion of the situation.
- Discuss your observations and perceptions of the situation directly and honestly with the student.
- Express your concern in a non-judgmental way. Respect the student’s value system, even if you don’t agree with it.
- Help the student identify options for action and explore the possible consequences.
- Be frank with the student about the limits of your ability to help them and let them know that you can help them get to experts who can help them address their concerns.
- If the student appears to be in imminent danger of hurting self or others, contact the Counseling Center to Center for Mental Health Care and Resources or the GT Police Department immediately. Do not promise to keep threats to self or others secret.
If the student agrees to the referral, you can offer to walk the student over to the Center for Mental Health Care & Resources in Suite 238 of Smithgall Student Services to set up their initial consultation. Finally, you should follow up with the student at a later date to show your continued interest even if he/she/they did not accept your attempted referral. In emergency situations involving students who are unwilling or unable to seek help on their own, you may call the Center at (404) 894-2575, the AVP for Student Engagement & Well-Being and Brandt-Fritz Dean of Students Chair Office, or the GT Police Department at (404) 849-2500.