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Faculty and Staff Guide to Students in Distress

Dear TCNJ Faculty and Staff:

As faculty and staff members of TCNJ, you are on the “front lines” of interacting with students.  You are also frequently in a position to know when students are struggling with personal, family and/or mental health concerns.  Here are a few situations you might encounter:

• A student comes to your office and is obviously under the influence of alcohol or drugs and is being disruptive.
• A student exhibits signs of extreme anxiety and distress while discussing an upcoming assignment.
• A student reveals to you that he/she is having thoughts of suicide.
• A student, obviously upset, tells you that despite her third- year standing she is thinking about changing her academic major for the third time.
• A student, who is usually well-prepared for class begins to miss class, fails to complete assignments, and becomes inattentive to hygiene and personal appearance.

The Problem
College students often experience high levels of stress. Most students successfully cope with college life; however, some become overwhelmed. A significant number of college students have their education and personal lives disrupted by psychological problems. When psychological difficulties go untreated, the results can be serious and include academic failure and even withdrawal from the college.

Most psychological problems – even the more serious disorders such as depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress – have high rates of recovery if appropriate help is received in time. Unfortunately, many students fail to get the help they need for any number of reasons, including lack of knowledge about the early signs of psychological difficulties, denial, and lack of information about campus resources that can provide help.

Your Role
Faculty and staff play a key role in identifying and responding to distressed students. As a faculty or staff member you often get the first glimpse of students in trouble and may be the first person who students turn to for help. Responding to students in distress, however, can be confusing and overwhelming. Counseling Center staff prepared this guide to assist you in responding to students in distress.

If you wish to consult with professionals or believe that a student should do so, we welcome the opportunity to help. Please call CAPS (x2247) for assistance. For consultation with a Dean of Students on non-emergency issues contact the DOS office (x2545). We appreciate the role you play as a help-giver in the campus community, and hope that this guide will be useful to you in your efforts.


Helping Students in Distress: A Faculty & Staff Guide for Assisting Students in Need