If you are with a student in an emergency situation, call 911. If you are unsure whether the situation requires immediate, rapid intervention, call The Office of Student Affairs (OSA) at 770-712-2594. Be prepared to provide your name, position at UGA, and brief but specific information about the reason(s) you are contacting OSA. You will also be asked to provide the student’s name and other identifying information.
UGA faculty and staff seeking consultation about when to intervene on behalf of a student, how to respond to a student in distress, and where to refer students in need of care should contact OSA at 770-712-2594.
It is not uncommon for faculty and staff to be the first to recognize when a student is in distress. Students may view you as a confidant, and disclose personal information. As an individual who interacts regularly with students, you may be able to detect dramatic changes in a student’s behavior. Trust your instincts. If you are concerned about a student, take it seriously. Keep record of the interactions you find troubling and be prepared to provide that information to the appropriate on-campus or off-campus professional.
Keep in mind a few basic principles:
- Safety comes first. If a student is acting bizarre, making threats, or exhibits behavior suggesting he or she is a danger to self or others alert campus police immediately. Remain calm. Avoid verbal or nonverbal interaction that may escalate the student’s distress. Although interacting with distressed students can be very unsettling, remember that it is unlikely a student will act aggressively toward you.
- Be clear and direct. A distressed student may be easily confused. Ask questions that are direct and mater-of-fact. Paraphrase the student’s response to the question in order to ensure you understand the concern. Avoid making assumptions, asserting your authority, and making statements that might appear insulting or judgmental.
- Take what the student says seriously. Although a student may sometimes accentuate his or her level of distress for a secondary gain, only a trained mental health professional should make this assessment.
- Know your limits. When the student’s need for support exceeds the level of support offered by faculty and staff, then referral to on or off campus resources may be needed. Signs that suggest it is time to seek professional assistance include an inability to leave the student’s distress at work, feeling overwhelmed by the student’s need for help, feeling angry at the student, or feeling afraid. When making a referral, be prepared to provide basic identifying information about the student.
When Making a Referral to OSA for Counseling Services
Inform the student that you are concerned about her or his well-being. Tell them you want to help them solve the problems, and believe that a referral will be the best way to address the problems. If you are concerned about how the student will respond to your suggestion, contact campus security and ask them to be on stand-by to assist in the referral.
Emphasize that professional counseling is confidential, but avoid making promises that your conversation with the student will remain confidential. Such promises may complicate the process of intervention and transfer of care to a treatment provider. This is especially true of students making threats to harm themselves; as such threats often require immediate intervention.
Follow-up with the student after the student is has received counseling services. Be aware that OSA staff will be unable to confirm whether a student has received services or to disclose the contents of information shared during the counseling appointment unless the student signs a release of information allowing us to share that information with you. However, be assured that OSA staff will take appropriate steps within the limits of the law to intervene with students assessed to be a danger to self or others.
If a UGA-Griffin student is interested in counseling services, please sign up here.