Faculty and staff members play a vital role in identifying students who may benefit from the services provided by the Counseling Center.
Your Role as Faculty/Staff
Students will often turn to trusted faculty, advisors, coaches, and mentors for informal advice and support. Although you are not expected to provide counseling, it may be helpful for you to become familiar with signs that indicate a student is experiencing emotional distress so you can respond effectively when students approach you with problems. This section is designed to help you to do the following:
- Become familiar with signs that indicate your student is having difficulties of an emotional or psychological nature;
- Learn how to respond effectively when your student approaches you with problems;
- Learn the steps for making an effective referral.
Signs of Distress
You should consider making a referral to the Counseling Center if you notice any of the following:
Changes in Academic Performance
- Poor academic performance, particularly if such behavior represents a change from the past
- Excessive absences from class or multiple requests for extensions
- Deterioration in quality of work or bizarre or disorganized content in writing/presentations
- Confusion or uncertainty about interests, abilities, or values
- Listlessness, lack of energy, complaints about fatigue, exhaustion
- Marked changes in personal hygiene
- Extreme mood changes or disproportionate emotional responses
- Excessive crying
- Overwhelming anxiety or panic
- Irritability or unusual apathy
- Dramatic weight loss or gain
- Preoccupation with food or body image
- Intoxication or indications of problematic substance use
- Impaired or disorganized speech, or disjointed, confused thoughts
- Disoriented and bizarre behavior indicating a loss of contact with reality
- Angry or hostile outbursts
- Aggressive, threatening or demanding behavior
Changes in Relationships
- Death of a family member or close friend
- Difficulties in romantic relationships
- Problems with family members, friends, or roommates
- Thwarted sense of belonging or patterns of isolation
Guidelines for Responding
- Initiate contact with a student about whom you are concerned; please don’t ignore strange, inappropriate or concerning behavior.
- Express your care and concern and indicate the specific behaviors that are the cause for your concern.
- Talk to your student in private when you both have enough time for a conversation.
- Use “I” language that focuses on what you have observed.
- Listen attentively, observing nonverbal as well as verbal responses.
- Acknowledge the student’s distress. Respond with empathy. Avoid being judgmental or minimizing the student’s experience.
- Reflect back that you understand what they are communicating and ask directly how you can best help them.
- Encourage positive action by helping the student define the problem and generate coping strategies; avoid the temptation to solve the problem.
- Know your limits as a help-giver. When a student needs more help than you can provide, consider making a referral to the Counseling Center or other mental health agency.
- Please refrain from making assumptions or specific recommendation for treatment (e.g., “You should be taking medication,” or “It sounds like you have bipolar disorder.”)
- Directly express your care for their well-being. Let the student know that you would like to follow-up with them to check-in again.
Making a Referral
Some students may be initially hesitant about seeking counseling. When you have decided that professional counseling is indicated, tell the student directly and clearly why you are making the referral.
Short-term counseling is provided to all students enrolled in a degree program. If a student has difficulties that need more frequent and/or longer-term counseling to address adequately, we may suggest other resources that would be more appropriate.
All Counseling Center staff members have experience helping students with a wide range of concerns. Although we will do our best to honor a student’s preference to see a specific counselor, it may result in a longer wait time depending upon schedules and availability. You are welcome to call the Center and let us know that you have referred a student.
- Review information about the counseling process with students using the Counseling Center website. Emphasize that services are confidential and free.
- Offer to call the Counseling Center together from your office to schedule an appointment. If you believe it is an emergency, you can accompany the student to the Center on the 2nd floor of Bailey Health Center. Please be sure to communicate your specific concerns to the counselor who will be meeting with the student.
- Suggest attending Consultation Clinic hours. Drop-in consultations of up to 30 minutes are available daily on a first come, first served basis between 10am-11:30am & 1pm-3:30pm. These sessions are designed for students who have a pressing or time-sensitive concern but who are not necessarily seeking ongoing counseling.
- You might recommend that the student attend one session before judging whether counseling is helpful or not. For those students who are hesitant to begin counseling, point out that using appropriate resources is a sign of strength and maturity. You can also remind the student that both telehealth and in person services are available based upon their preference.
- If a student indicates they have attended counseling in the past and did not experience a good fit with their counselor, remind them that they can request to meet with a specific counselor and suggest they review staff profiles.
- Except in the case of imminent danger to self or others, it is important to allow the student the right to refuse counseling.
- Also consider completing a One Pard Universal Form to alert the Student Support and Intervention Team that a student is struggling and would benefit from additional support.
*If at any time you become concerned that the student is in imminent danger of harming themselves or someone else, you should call the Office of Public Safety at 610.330.4444.
Asking about Suicide
Asking a student whether they are thinking about suicide can feel uncomfortable and even frightening. You cannot increase someone’s risk of ending their life just by bringing up the topic. Research shows that acknowledging and talking about suicide might actually reduce suicidal thoughts. Many students feel very relieved when someone realizes they are hurting so much that they are having thoughts about not wanting to be alive. Even though someone might be thinking about suicide, it doesn’t mean they have a clear plan. The opportunity to have a conversation with a caring person can significantly reduce the risk that a student will actually harm themselves.
Signs a student might be considering suicide include:
- Expressions of hopelessness about the future, or being able to change or improve
- Expressions of being a burden to friends, family, the college
- Difficulty connecting with others
- Physical signs that they have cut or injured themselves
- Giving away possessions
- Talking about “if/when I’m gone….”
- Detaching from responsibilities and routine
Events associated with increased risk include:
- Death of a family member or close friend
- Sudden breakup in a relationship
- Problems with family members, friends, or roommates
- Experiencing or causing an accident
- Getting arrested or doing something about which one is deeply ashamed
- Diagnosis of a serious illness
- Academic setbacks
Responding to Concerns about Suicide
If you have ANY concern that a student might be considering suicide, you should ask them directly about your concerns.
- Here are some ways you can ask:
- Sometimes when people are experiencing very difficult situations, they may have thoughts of suicide; have you?
- Do things ever get so bad that you have thoughts of wanting to die?
- Are you thinking about ending your life?
- If they say yes, you can ask:
- Have you thought about how you would end your life?
- Do you have the means to follow through?
- Following the student’s responses, express appreciation for their honesty with you and acknowledge the courage this may have taken. Express your concern and let them know that their safety is your priority.
- If they indicate they are currently thinking seriously about ending their life, let them know that you need to alert someone who can help.
- During regular business hours, call the Counseling Center at 610.330.5005 and inform the office coordinator that a student needs to speak with a counselor immediately. Accompany the student to the Counseling Center and share your concerns with the counselor.
- After business hours, call 610.330.5005 to speak with a crisis support counselor. Explain that you are with the student and share your concerns. The crisis counselor will then conduct an assessment with the student over the phone to determine next steps. *Calls are routed based upon risk, so it is important to disclose any safety concerns when the call is answered.
- Always call Public Safety 610.330.4444 for assistance if a student is communicating via text or email that they are in imminent danger of harming themselves.
- Please then complete the One Pard Universal Form to alert the Student Support and Intervention Team.
Counseling Center staff members are required by law and by professional codes of ethics to protect the confidentiality of all contacts with students. The only exceptions occur in cases of imminent danger to self or others or reports of child abuse. Without a student’s permission we can discuss neither the content of counseling sessions nor the fact that they are a client of the Counseling Center. These requirements are in effect even when a faculty/staff member has made the original referral to the Center. However, if the student gives their written permission, we are happy to speak with referring faculty or staff members.
While our counselors are unable to provide confidential information about a specific student without their permission, we always are able to consult with faculty and staff regarding any concerns you may have about a student and discuss available supports and resources. If you have any questions about the services offered by the Counseling Center or would like to consult with a counselor, please feel free to call 610.330.5005.
Simulation Resource for Faculty & Staff
Kognito is an interactive role-play simulation for faculty and staff that builds awareness, knowledge, and skills about mental health and suicide prevention, and prepares users to lead real-life conversations with students that build resilience, strengthen relationships and connect them with support. Click on the picture below to be directed to the online simulation.
Crisis Support Services
When the Counseling Center is closed, after-hours crisis support is available by calling 610.330.5005. The College works with ProtoCall Services to provide crisis support and referrals.
In the event of a life-threatening emergency call Public Safety at 610.330.4444.
Additional Crisis Services:
Emergency Room at Lehigh Valley Hospital-Muhlenberg (610) 402-8000
2545 Schoenersville Road, Bethlehem, PA 18017
Togetherall is a peer-to-peer mental health community that empowers students to anonymously seek and provide support. This online resource is moderated by mental health professionals and offers a safe space to connect with others experiencing similar feelings 24/7, 365 days a year. Togetherall also offers journaling, goal-setting and self-assessment tools, in addition to a wide range of self-guided courses to help support mental health and well-being. Help promote this free resource to all Lafayette students by sharing this slide.
For those students who wish to seek counseling from an off-campus mental health professional, we offer referral consultations to help students locate treatment providers in the Lehigh Valley.
Students who are interested in receiving an evaluation for medication are encouraged to contact the Bailey Health Center at 610.330.5001 to schedule an appointment with prescribing medical providers and/or the consulting psychiatrist.
Behavioral Health Resources for Faculty and Staff
Supporting students in distress can be both rewarding and stressful. Remember to take care of yourself too. The Employee Assistance Program (EAP) program provides access to services that address personal life challenges, and connects you to valuable resources and guidance, while providing confidential support in areas concerning the management of work-life issues.
Learn about the Mental Wellness and Work-Life Balance Resources available to you through the Office of Human Resources.