Guidelines for Faculty & Staff
The purpose of this guide (a.k.a. “Distressed and Disruptive Behavior Folder”) is to help you recognize symptoms of student distress and identify appropriate referrals to campus resources.
Indicators of Distress
When faced with academic and life challenges, students may feel alone, isolated, and even hopeless. These feelings can easily disrupt academic performance and may lead to dysfunctional coping and other serious consequences. As a result of your frequent and prolonged contact, you may be the first person to notice a student in distress.
- Sudden decline in quality of work and grades
- Repeated absences
- Concerning content in writings or presentations (such as worthlessness, rage, or isolation)
- Multiple requests for extensions
- Overly demanding of faculty’s or staff’s time and attention
- Excessive fatigue
- Intoxication, hangovers, or smelling of alcohol
- Disoriented or “out of it”
- Self-disclosure of personal problems (such as family or financial problems)
- Disproportionate emotional response to events
Helping Students in Need
Students sometimes feel that they can’t share their struggles with family and friends but may be comfortable doing so with faculty or staff. As fellow members of the WOU community, it is important that we act with compassion. By expressing concern, you may help save a student’s academic career or even their life.
When a student indicates a plan to harm themselves
- Stay with the student to keep them safe.
Call campus public safety at (503) 838-9000.
What happens next
The Campus Public Safety Officer who responds will make an initial assessment.
If the initial assessment is not life-threatening, the Officer will take the student to the Student Health and Counseling Center for evaluation. If the situation is life threatening, the Officer will dispatch off-campus emergency responders.
The Officer will notify the Student Health and Counseling Center and the Vice President for Student Affairs.
When a student expresses suicidal thoughts (no plan)
Offer to walk the student to the Student Health & Counseling Center (across from the library) or call the counseling center at (503) 838-8396.
If it’s after hours, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
Student affairs can consult you on what to do and reach out to students before things reach a crisis level.
When a student shows indicators of distress
If you’re comfortable, talk with the student in private. Express your concern by referring to the student’s behavior in non-judgmental terms.
Complete a Student of Concern Form (student affairs).
- Provide resources and encourage the student to access services. See our printable crisis resource list.
- Follow-up with the student and see if they followed through with referral. Allow the student to express reactions to the appointment.
Be Proactive about Mental Health
Add resources to your syllabus
This helps set the stage for dialogue about mental health concerns early in the semester. Plus, it helps build a culture where students seek help when needed. See an example syllabus insert (Word document).
Add a resources “block” in Moodle
Similar to adding a syllabus insert, putting mental health resources in your Moodle courses helps foster help-seeking. See how to add a custom resources block in Moodle.
Learn how to help a student in distress with QPR training. QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer) is a university-based suicide prevention training offered by the Suicide Prevention & Mental Health Promotion Project. Visit the Trainings page to learn more.
Where can I go if I want help?
WOU’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) contracts with Cascade Centers to offer all WOU employees confidential counseling and other services. Three counseling visits per year are available at no charge to WOU employees, household members, and dependents.
Cascade offers face to face or phone sessions for problem identification, assessment, establishing outcome goals, recommendations, priorities, and actions needed to reach goals. Call 1-800-433-2320 to make an appointment or if you have questions about the program.