College students typically encounter a great deal of stress (e.g., academic, social, family, work, financial) during their educational experiences. While most students cope successfully with the demands of college life, for some the pressures can become overwhelming and unmanageable. Students in difficulty have a number of resources available to them. These include close friends, relatives, clergy, and coaches. In fact, anyone who is seen as caring and trustworthy may be a potential resource in time of trouble.
We believe there is a powerful rationale for faculty/staff to intervene when they encounter distressed students: the inability to cope effectively with emotional stress poses a serious threat to students' learning ability. As a faculty member, your expression of interest and concern may be a critical factor in helping a struggling student reestablish the emotional equilibrium necessary for academic survival and success.
Your willingness to respond to students in distress will undoubtedly be influenced by your personal style and your particular philosophy about the limits of responsibility for helping students grow, emotionally as well as intellectually. Obviously, a student's openness to assistance, and such situational factors as class size, length and depth of your relationship, and the location of the contact, may have a substantial effect on the type of interaction you can have with a student.
We hope this brochure will not only help to assess what can sometimes be difficult situations, but give you some specific ideas about what you can do when confronted with a student who is in distress. We are not attempting to transform you into professional counselors. However, the following guidelines should prove to be useful in helping you think more clearly about options for intervention should you chose to assist the student in these areas.