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Faculty Guide for Student Mental Health

  • You do not need to be a mental health professional to talk with students about emotions. Listening and compassion go a long way!
  • Students experience a range of feelings.
  • Emotions (positive and negative) are normal.
  • Emotions do not constitute mental health problems, unless they become unmanageable and/or impede functioning.

How will you typically see mental health needs manifest in your classrooms?

  • Disruptive students
  • Highly anxious students
  • Possible substance abuse issues
  • Students requesting leniency for psychiatric or emotional reasons
  • Severe distress/crisis

When a student is disruptive

DO:

  • Communicate expectations about appropriate classroom conduct.
  • Provide the class (rather than the individual student) with a word of caution, allowing an opportunity for the behavior to stop.
  • Model compassion and respect.
  • Talk to the student after class.
  • Communicate consequences for continued disruption.
  • Ask the student to leave if he or she continues to disrupt instruction.

DON'T:

  • Discipline student in front of others.
  • Ridicule or argue with the student.
  • Press for explanations for behaviors.
  • Assume you can permanently remove a student without a formal review.
**Adapted from Kansas State University Counseling Services: “Common Problems that Students May Present When Talking with an Advisor/Faculty”

When a student is in crisis 

DO:

  • Let the student know you have noticed they are struggling.
  • Encourage the student to talk.
  • Be direct. Ask if they’re thinking about suicide, if they have a plan, and if they have access to the method.
  • Take the student seriously.
  • If he/she discloses suicidal thoughts – call Counseling Center together or walk the student there (or Campus Security if Counseling Center is closed).

DON’T:

  • Minimize, blame or chastise.
  • Offer problem solvers.
  • Be afraid to ask questions about suicide. You will not “plant” the idea.
  • Try to handle the problem alone. 

When a student is anxious

DO:

  • Talk with the student about his/her feelings and concerns.
  • Normalize academic stress.
  • Provide a calm, restful space.
  • Offer reassurance and clear expectations.
  • Help student break down assignments into small, manageable parts.

DON’T:

  • Tell the student there’s nothing to worry about — this is invalidating and false.
  • Adjust your expectations.
  • Act as if this is an emergency. Anxiety is not a crisis, and behaving as such will intensify the symptoms. 

Requests for leniency:

  • Respond to the student in a timely fashion.
  • Refer the student to Academic Advising or the Rudin Center.
  • Suggest a visit to Student Success (for repeated requests) or the Counseling Center.
  • Listen carefully to the request and consider leniency, if warranted.