What Can You Do?
Level 3 problems are the easiest to identify and handle in that there are specific procedures for helping students in crisis. Basically, you need to stay calm and know who to call for help. This information is outlined under How to Make a Referral.
In dealing with a student who exhibits Level 1 or Level 2 behavior you may be the one who brings up your concern, or the student may seek your help with a problem. Below are some suggestions which might be helpful:
- Demonstrate respect by talking to him/her when both of you have sufficient time and are in a private place free from disturbance by others.
- Be matter-of-fact. Control your emotions and it may help him to do the same.
- Give her your undivided attention.
- Express concern in clear, direct, behavioral, non-judgmental terms (e.g., “I’ve noticed you’ve been posting some depressing things on your door and I’m concerned,” rather than “Why do you have such a disturbing poster up?” or “What were you thinking?”)
- Listen to his description of the problems in a respectful, non-threatening way. Often “why” questions can feel very threatening.
- Let her talk.
- If he is explicitly raising spiritual or religious issues, explore options of going to the Counseling Center and/or the Office of the Chaplain.
You can convey support and understanding by summarizing what you hear. It is important to include both content and feelings. Check with the student to make sure you are getting it right. “It sounds as if the experience of moving away from home was a big change and now you’re feeling lonely and isolated. Is that right?”
Sometimes Level 2 students may cause distress to others. These students might be disruptive in their class or dorm, or might be behaving in disturbing ways in their personal life, but are not open to a referral. In this situation, address the student in a straightforward and compassionate way about the upsetting behavior. Give specific examples whenever you can. You may need to be very explicit about what behavior is problematic and why it is problematic. Often students whose behavior is disturbing have trouble appreciating why others are reacting as they do. Suggest alternative behaviors, and do so in a positive way (as much as possible). Sometimes students whose behaviors continue to be disruptive can be helped via the University codes of conduct. While no likes to see someone “in trouble,” setting clear boundaries is often extremely helpful to distressed students. You can consult with Counseling Center staff or with the Dean of Students about best approaches.