When & How to Intervene
When Should I Intervene?
In many cases of student distress, faculty and staff can provide adequate help through empathic listening, facilitating open discussion of problems, instilling hope, conveying acceptance, giving reassurance, and offering basic, as opposed to expert, advice. In some cases, students need professional help to overcome problems and to resume effective functioning. The following signs indicate that a student may need counseling and/or other interventions:
- The student remains distressed, or gets worse, following attempts by you/others to be helpful.
- The student becomes increasingly isolated, unkempt, irritable, or disconnected.
- The student’s academic or social performance deteriorates.
- The student’s behavior reflects increased hopelessness or helplessness.
- The student repeatedly seeks you out to discuss personal problems.
- The student shows significant and marked changes in behavior and mood.
- The student’s behavior places somebody else at risk.
How to Respond to Students with Concerning Behavior
- Safety First: – Timely Response: The welfare of the campus community is the top priority when a student displays threatening or potentially violent behavior. Immediately call for help. The most effective means of preventing suicide and violence is providing coordinated professional help and follow-up.
- Trust your Instincts: If you experience any sense of unease about a student, it is important to pay attention to those feelings. Seek consultation and promptly report safety concerns and conduct code violations.
- Be Proactive: Engage students early on, pay attention to signs of distress, and set limits on disruptive behavior.
- Listen Sensitively and Carefully: Distressed students need to be acknowledged, heard, and helped. Many students will have trouble articulating or identifying their real issues and feelings. Don’t be afraid to ask students directly if they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, feeling confused, or having thoughts of harming themselves or others.
- Offer Support and Avoid Escalation: Distressed students may be sensitive to criticism and/or easily provoked. At the time of crisis, avoid comments that may seem judgmental or disapproving. Use a calm, non-confrontational voice/tone. Offer words that may convey hope and your desire to help.
- Help them to Access Resources: Refer students to campus departments or offices that have the necessary expertise and personnel to help them. Direct the student to the physical location of the identified resource. If appropriate, consider calling in advance or accompanying the student to the office that can help.
In Emergency Situations
In instances of extreme student distress, simply offering a referral/submitting a report is not sufficient. In these instances, it is imperative to ensure that a connection with an appropriate resource (Public Safety, Personal Counseling Center, Dean’s Office, etc.) is accomplished. If the distressed student is unwilling to permit this, faculty/staff/students should still contact a College official (Public Safety, Dean of Students) for assistance. In an emergency after-hours situation when the Dean of Students’ Office is closed, the following resources are available 24/7 for assistance:
- The Office of Public Safety: 401.865.2222
- Residence Life Hall Director On Call: 401.639.9110
- Confidential Resources Answering Service: 401.865.1333 (for 24/7 access to confidential resources from the Personal Counseling Center and Campus Ministry)
- Providence Police: 911 or 9-911 from a campus phone