Helping Students in Distress Furman University

Our small, close-knit campus community means friends, classmates, and professors know and support each other. You might start to notice changes in a student, but be unsure of what’s happening or how to deal with it. Whether you’re a parent, classmate, friend, or professor, you can call the Counseling Center to discuss how you can help a student. We can work with you to find ways to bring up the Counseling Center as a resource and to dispel any misconceptions the student might have about counseling.

Counseling can be a valuable resource for students in distress, but the process is more effective if it’s the student’s decision to get help. That’s why we don’t recommend pressuring anyone into counseling and we don’t allow anyone, even parents, to make appointments for the student. If the student does come to us for help, their contact with us is completely confidential.

Signs a student is in distress

  • You’re doing more personal counseling with a student than you find comfortable or you feel they’d benefit from talking to someone with professional training.
  • The student seems excessively sad, anxious, or irritable.
  • There’s a marked change from the student’s normal baseline of behavior. A typically strong and engaged student might start procrastinating, turning in poorly prepared work, missing class or meetings, or avoiding class or group participation.
  • You notice marked changes in a student’s appearance, such as deterioration in grooming, hygiene, or weight loss.
  • It seems likely that use of alcohol or other substances may be interfering with a student’s performance or relationships.
  • There’s marked and persistent change in energy level. The student might seem listless, fall asleep frequently in class or meetings, or show acceleration in speech and activity.
  • The student's behavior regularly interferes with the decorum or effective management of your class, program, or office.
  • The student seems unusually dependent, helpless, or hopeless.
  • The student’s thoughts, speech, or actions seem bizarre or unusual.

How to talk to the student

  • Talk to the student in private.
  • Inform the student of your concern in a straightforward, matter-of-fact manner. Give specific examples of the behavior patterns you’ve observed that lead you to feel concerned.
  • Listen carefully.
  • Avoid criticizing or sounding judgmental.
  • Mention the Counseling Center as a resource for students who are dealing with significant stress or experiencing problems.
  • If the student is resistant to seeking help, listen to their concerns. Try to correct misconceptions or look for alternatives, but don’t pressure students into counseling if they prefer not to take this step – counseling will be more effective when the student is ready to participate.
  • Make sure the student knows how to make an appointment or direct them to the website. Remember you won’t be able to make an appointment for the student.

Once a student makes the decision to come to counseling, we abide by our confidentiality statement.

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