What to Do
Your first step in expressing concern is to set aside a time and a place to talk to the student where you know you will have some privacy and will not be disturbed. You should approach the student as an interested, concerned human being rather than as an authority figure who knows what is best for the student. You might begin by describing the specific behaviors that have raised your concern.
It’s important that you describe specifically to the student the behaviors that have raised your concern. You should avoid global statements like, “You’ve been acting strange lately.” Such statements give the student no real information and may lead him or her to feel judged, self-conscious, or defensive.
If, after describing the behaviors that concern you, the student does not seem willing to talk, you may want to tell the student about the services available at the Counseling Center and McKinley Mental Health and how to use them or contact either the Counseling Center or McKinley Mental Health and ask for advice about how to proceed. Either way, you should make it clear to the student that you can be available if the student changes his or her mind and wants to talk at a later time.
When you are referring students for professional counseling, you should be prepared for resistance. Students sometimes feel they should be able to work things out on their own. They may react as though you are implying that they are “crazy” or “sick” if you suggest counseling. Your approach to the student and your personal attitude about counseling are extremely important at this point. It will help if you are familiar with the services of the Counseling Center and McKinley Mental Health and can describe them matter of factly and with confidence.
Tips for referring students
If a student is in crisis, you may want to go with that student to the Counseling Center or McKinley Mental Health to make sure he or she gets there. Under such circumstances, when possible, it is helpful to call first, tell who you are and that you have a student who you think needs to be seen immediately, and that you would like to bring the student to the Center.