Recognizing and Assisting Students in Emotional Distress

The following is a transcript of the "Recognizing and Assisting Students in Emotional Distress" multimedia presentation available here.

Recognizing and Assisting Students in Emotional Distress. Counseling and Student Development Center (CSDC) Micky M. Sharma, Psy. D., Director

Hello, I’m Dr. Micky Sharma, Director of the Counseling and Student Development Center here at Northern Illinois University. CSDC is the university-based counseling center which provides services to all university students. Our personal counseling services are provided at no cost to students and are completely confidential. Our office is located on the second floor of the Campus Life building. Some of the issues that we work with students on include: depression and anxiety, alcohol and other drug issues, eating or body image concerns, relationship issues, transition to the university, as well as transition to the United States, stress management, anger management, and suicidal thoughts and behaviors. We also have a program entitled coaching for academic success. This program involves test-taking skills, test preparation, study skills, and time management. The focus of my presentation today will be on recognizing and assisting students in emotional distress.

The emotional and academic pressure of university life, while manageable and even exhilarating for most students, can be simply overwhelming for others. Such students may not yet have attained the level of maturity necessary to develop adequate coping skills, or they may be struggling with relatively long-standing emotional deficits that are exacerbated by the transition to college life. Consequently, due to your position, status, and visibility on campus, students experiencing emotional distress may turn to you for help. Or, because of your role, you may find yourself dealing with a student who needs assistance. How you respond in these situations could significantly impact the student’s ability to deal constructively with his/her emotional conflicts.

One of the most common concerns college students face is depression. This issue impacts many students. Depression can have a negative impact on one’s academics, social life, personal and familial relationships. As with most problems, it is helpful to intervene as soon as possible. By being better able to recognize the symptoms of depression and knowing what course of action to take, you may assist depressed students in pursuing changes that will result in a lessening of their depressive symptoms. Signs of depression include: Flat affect (inexpressive face); Slow speech; Decrease in interest in course material; Difficulty concentrating; Poor class attendance; Failure to complete assignments; Expressions of hopelessness or worthlessness; Agitation or irritability; Crying Low energy/lethargy; Significant change in behavior, appearance or attitude.

When noticing these signs in a student you should do the following: Listen Take the issue seriously Directly express your concern for the student; Directly ask the student if he or she is feeling depressed; Try not to threaten, admonish, or reproach a depressed student for falling behind in course work or missing class; Try to find alternative ways for the student to catch up on missed work; Make the appropriate referral to Counseling and Student Development Center

To refer a student to our office, simply have the student walk over to the Center. We operate on a ‘walk in system’ where students do not need to schedule their initial appointment. We are located in the Campus Life Building, suite 200. You may also call us with the student in your office to facilitate the student coming to CSDC. CSDC staff are also available to consult with you about concerns you have about a student. You may call us to discuss the best way to handle a student issue/concern. Our services include individual and group counseling, crisis services, as well as assessment and Coaching for Academic success. We also provide outreach programming across campus and would be happy to provide a presentation in one of your courses on a wide variety of topics. After the student’s initial appointment the counselor will work with the student to determine the best course of action to take. All of our services are completely confidential and at no cost to students. You can learn more information about CSDC at our website: 753-1206 200 Campus Life Building Micky M. Sharma, Psy.D. Director

Acknowledgements: Developed by the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center, Northern Illinois University | Special thanks to Micky Sharma, Psy.D. and the Counseling and Student Development Center |