Dealing with a Distressed Student: A Referral Guide for Faculty and Staff
Staff and Office Information
- Gary Petiprin, Ph.D., Director (x8469) (email)
- Amy Wendell, Psy.D., Assistant Director (x8466) (email)
- Ronda Purdy, M.A., Counselor/Disability Service Coord (x8480) (email)
- Office Phone: 502.272.8480
- 2120 Newburg Rd. (BOB), Suite 403
About the Counseling Services
Bellarmine University Counseling Center provides short-term personal counseling, assessment, consultation, and referral services. The counselors on staff are both licensed psychologists with many years of experience working with young adults and college students. Any currently enrolled student at Bellarmine University is eligible to receive counseling services. Counseling services are free of charge and confidential. Our standard office hours are 8 a.m. - 5 p.m., Monday through Friday (some evening hours available – call for more information).
Identifying Students Who May Benefit From a Referral
The following behavioral indicators may help in identifying a student who is distressed and might benefit from counseling services: Marked Changes in Academic Performance or Behavior
Unusual Behavior or Appearance
- Poor performance or preparation (particularly if previous performance has been good)
- Excessive absences or tardiness
- Avoiding participation
- Excessive anxiety when called upon, giving a speech, or taking a test
- Exaggerated or inappropriate emotional response to an event or situation
Talking About Suicide, Homicide or Death
- Depressed or lethargic mood (head down, avoidance of eye contact)
- Hyperactivity or very rapid speech
- Swollen or red eyes
- Change in personal hygiene or dress
- Disheveled appearance
- Dramatic weight loss or gain
- Strange or bizarre behavior indicating loss of contact with reality
Alcohol or Drug Abuse
- Overt references to suicide or off-handed remarks about suicide (even if said jokingly)
- Feelings of hopelessness or helplessness
- Isolation from friends or family
- Homicidal threats or off-handed threatening remarks
Stating a Need for Help
- Coming to class or meetings intoxicated
- Missing classes due to hangover
- Engaging in high-risk or violent behavior while intoxicated
- Students may directly tell you about their feelings of stress, confusion, sadness, hopelessness, anxiety, etc. They may look to you for answers or direction.
How To Make a Referral For Psychological Counseling
- Do not attempt to make a referral when a student is too upset or confused to listen to you. Simply stay with the student and wait until he/she has calmed down enough to listen and respond to your suggestions.
- Be direct in letting the student know that you believe that he/she would benefit from meeting with a professional counselor.
- Inform the student that the services are strictly confidential, are provided by experienced and credentialed professionals, and are a benefit of being a student at the university (i.e. are free to the student).
- Don’t force the issue if the student is defensive or resistant to your suggestion. Simply restate your position and explore any misconceptions about counseling. People are often hesitant to seek counseling, particularly if they perceive a stigma associated with counseling. Let the student know that speaking with a counselor does not imply that he/she is “weak” or “crazy.
- If the student is receptive, you can suggest that he or she schedule an appointment. A student may arrange an appointment by calling our main number (502.272.8480). Typically, a counselor will conduct a brief triage assessment and arrange an appointment. The student must be the person to arrange the appointment.
- It is sometimes helpful to offer to accompany the individual to the first session, particularly if the student is distraught, but this should be the student’s decision.
- If you are ever uncertain how to handle a situation, please call. We will be happy to consult with you.
Emergency situations (highly distraught, in jeopardy of harming self or others) are always highest priority and will always be accommodated. In emergency situations, please contact our main number and let us know that there is a emergency. If you are unable to reach someone directly (e.g. line is busy, after normal office hours), you can contact Campus Security (502.272.7777) and they can page the on-call counselor.
Comments About Confidentiality
As mental health professionals, we are under legal and ethical obligation to keep counseling information confidential. This means that we cannot tell anyone, including faculty or staff, if a student is receiving counseling services. There are only two situations in which we would be able to disclose information to you:
- If the student’s physical safety or the physical safety of others is at risk;
- When the student gives us written permission to communicate with you. If you would like feedback regarding the student, express that wish to the counselor and he/she will ask the student for permission to communicate with you.