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When a Student Needs Counseling: A Guide for Faculty & Staff

BUCC Office Hours: M-F 8:00am-5:00pm
Walk- In Clinic Hours: M-Th 9:00am- 12:00pm and 1:00pm -4:00pm


In addition to serving students, BUCC is also available as a resource for Baylor faculty and staff. We may be of assistance to you in the following ways:
• Giving presentations to a class, residence hall, or student organization
• Suicide Prevention Training
• Training faculty and staff on student mental health issues
• Offering consultation for helping a student in distress

Why Students Encounter Stress
Students encounter stress for a variety of reasons. Academics, family problems, social situations, work, and financial concerns are just some of the sources of stress. While most students cope successfully with the demands of college life, for some the pressures become overwhelming and unmanageable.

The inability to cope effectively with emotional stress poses a serious threat to a student's overall functioning. The expression of interest and concern by a faculty or staff member may be critical factors in helping a struggling student reestablish the emotional equilibrium necessary for success in a university environment.

Understanding the Difference between a Student in Crisis and a Student Experiencing Stress

Student in Crisis
If a student is in a serious mental health crisis, you might see or hear the following:
• Suicidal statements or suicide attempts
• Written or verbal threats, or attempted homicide or assault
• Destruction of property or other criminal acts
• Inability to communicate (e.g., garbled or slurred speech, disjointed thoughts)
• Loss of contact with reality (e.g., seeing or hearing things that aren't there, expressing beliefs or actions at odds with reality)
• Highly disruptive behavior (e.g., hostility, aggression, violence)

What To Do When You Suspect a Serious Crisis:
If you believe there may be imminent danger of harm to a student or someone else, as evidenced by several of the crisis symptoms listed above, immediately call the Baylor Police (710-2222) or the Waco Police Department (911) for assistance. You may also consider walking the student to the Baylor University Counseling Center. If you are unsure how to proceed you can call BUCC for a consultation during business hours at 254-710-2467.

Student Experiencing Stress
Stress is a part of every student's life. However, there are some indicators that, when present over time, suggest that a student's stress level may be a cause for concern. In these circumstances, you might see or hear the following:
• Uncharacteristic changes in academic performance
• Uncharacteristic changes in attendance at class or meetings
• Depressed or lethargic mood
• Hyperactivity and/or rapid speech
• Social withdrawal
• Marked change in personal dress, hygiene, eating and/or sleeping routines
• Repeatedly falling asleep in class
• Requests for special consideration, especially if the student is uncomfortable talking about the circumstances prompting the request
• New or recurrent behavior that pushes the limits of decorum and that interferes with the effective management of your class, work team, etc.
• Unusual or exaggerated emotional response to events

What To Do When You Suspect a Student is Experiencing Stress:
If you choose to approach a student you are concerned about or if a student seeks you out, here are some suggestions that might be helpful:

Talk to the student in private when both of you have time and are not rushed or preoccupied. Give the student your undivided attention. It is possible that just a few minutes of effective listening on your part may be enough to help the student feel comfortable about what to do next.

Be direct and nonjudgmental. Be direct and specific. Express your concern in behavioral, nonjudgmental terms. For example, say something like "I've noticed you've been absent from class lately, and I'm concerned," rather than "Why have you missed so much class lately?"

Listen sensitively. Listen to thoughts and feelings in a sensitive, non-threatening way. Communicate understanding by repeating back the essence of what the student has told you. Try to include both the content and feelings. For example, "It sounds like you're not accustomed to such a big campus and you're feeling left out of things." Remember to let the student talk.

Refer. Point out that help is available, and emphasize that seeking help is a sign of strength. Make some suggestions about places to go for help (Paul F Success Center, OALA, Spiritual Life, BUCC, etc.). Tell the student what you know about the recommended person or service.

Follow up. Following up is an important part of the process. Check with the student later to find out how he or she is doing, and provide support as appropriate.

Dealing with students in distress can be a stressful and taxing experience. Be sure to take care of yourself, too. Seek support from colleagues and supervisors. It may also be helpful to talk with a counselor. Counseling services are available for Baylor faculty and staff through the Employee Assistance Program. If you are interested in counseling options for yourself or a BUCC colleague, please contact the Employee Assistance Program at 888.293.6948.

If you have concerns about a student, faculty, or staff member in the Baylor Community you can report them anonymously through the Report it! website.


McLane Student Life Center
2nd Floor
Phone: 254.710.2467
Fax: 254.710.2460

Hours: Mon.-Fri., 8 a.m.-5 p.m.