University students often encounter a great deal of stress during the course of their academic experience.  While most students are able to cope with the various challenges of these years, an increasing number of students are experiencing mental health problems that would benefit from professional help.  As a faculty or staff member, you may be one of the first to become aware of personal difficulties affecting a student.  The following guidelines are offered to assist you in responding to these students.

Some signs and symptoms of a student in distress

Consider referring a student to the Counseling Center if you notice these warning signs:

  • You are doing more personal counseling with a student than you find comfortable, and feel they could be better served by someone with professional training.
  • The student seems excessively sad, anxious, or irritable.
  • There is a marked change from the student's normal baseline of behavior (e.g., a typically strong and engaged student procrastinates or turns in poorly prepared work, begins to miss class or meetings, or avoids class or group participation).
  • You notice marked changes in a student's appearance (e.g., deterioration in grooming, hygiene, weight loss).
  • Through comments, behavior and presentation, it seems likely that use of alcohol or other substances may be interfering with a student's performance or relationships.
  • There is marked and persistent change in energy level:  listlessness, frequently falling asleep in class or meetings, or acceleration in speech and activity.
  • Behavior occurs that 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.

Guidelines for interaction

  • Talk to the student in private.
  • Inform the student of your concern in a straight-forward, matter-of-fact manner.  Be specific regarding the behavior patterns you have observed that lead you to feel concerned. 
  • Listen carefully.
  • Avoid criticizing or sounding judgmental.

Making a referral

  • 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 do not pressure students into counseling if they prefer not to take this step – counseling will be more effective when the student is ready to participate.
  • It is generally best if the student takes the initiative to call or comes in to make an appointment.  Give the phone number and location.  In some cases, you may want to offer the student the opportunity to call from your office. 

Location, office hours and telephone number

The Counseling Center is located in the lower level of the Earle Infirmarybuilding.  Enter from the lake side of the building. 

Office hours are 8:30 am until 5:00 pm each weekday.  Counseling services are generally provided on an appointment basis.  Students can schedule appointments by visiting the office or by phoning 294-3031.  

Urgent referrals

Crisis situations may require immediate action.  The following are examples of urgent circumstances:

  • Stated intention to commit suicide or to deliberately harm self.
  • Behavior or communication that indicates imminent threat to harm others.
  • Demonstrated inability to care for oneself.

Responding in an urgent situation:

  • During working hours, call the Counseling Center directly (294-3031).
  • After hours, contact University Police (294-2111) or Student Health Services (294-2180). Counseling Center staff is available for consultation in determining the most appropriate level of intervention.


If you are concerned about a student but are uncertain about the appropriateness of a referral, feel free to call the Counseling Center for a consultation.  We are available to help you think through options for addressing your concerns about emotional and behavioral issues you are observing.


You should understand that all communication between a counselor and a client is considered confidential information by law and professional codes of ethics.  Once a student becomes a Counseling Center client, we cannot discuss his/her situation or even acknowledge the fact that counseling is being provided, without the consent of the student. 

Alternative resources for faculty, staff and students

Furman provides a variety of resources to assist students who may encounter difficulties during their college experience.  The following list of alternatives may be of value to students in distress and may also serve as consultation resources for faculty and staff.

VP for Student Life (ext. 2202) Coordinator of Student Life (ext. 2203)
Associate Academic Dean (ext. 2064) Assistant Academic Dean (ext. 2269)
Chaplain (ext. 2133) Student Health Services (ext. 2180)
Academic Assistance (ext. 2110) Disability Services (ext. 2320)
Housing & Residence Life (ext. 2092) Career Services (ext. 2106)
Multicultural Affairs (ext. 3104)  University Police (ext. 2111)

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