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Working With Students of Concern

Jo Baldwin, Director, Student Conduct and Case Management
baldwinj@apsu.edu (931) 221-6356


Hello. My name is Jo Baldwin, Director of Student Conduct and Case Management. Today I'm going to be talking with you about students of concern. As faculty members, you are often the first to recognize that a student may be struggling academically and/or emotionally. Also, students will often share with faculty if they are having difficulties. During this presentation, I will go over some quick facts regarding mental health and college students. We will talk about issues college students face. I'll give you an overview of what the Behavioral Intervention/Care Team is. And we'll share resources and how to make referrals.

Let's start off with some quick facts. 41% of students suffer from anxiety, 36% of students are depressed, and 35% report having relationship problems that interfere with their educational goals. One in four adults 18 and over live with a diagnosable mental health disorder. 18 to 24-year-olds show the lowest rate of help-seeking behavior. With that being said, it's important that faculty have the tools they need to assist students if they notice a student's behavior has changed significantly, or if a student is displaying signs of distress. Some basic guidelines. If you come across a student that you are concerned about, always have these discussions privately. Acknowledge to the student that you are aware of their distress and that you are concerned about their welfare, briefly acknowledge your observations and perceptions of their situation, and express your concern directly and honestly. For example, you've noticed that Emily has not been coming to class. And when she is present, she has not been engaging in classroom discussions like she had been doing earlier in the semester. You might ask her to stay after class for a moment and then tell her that you're concerned about her and see if she will tell you why she's had a change in her behavior. Listen carefully to what the student is troubled about and try to see the issue from his or her point of view without necessarily agreeing or disagreeing. You don't want to give the impression that you see things the way they do. Strange and inappropriate behavior should not be endorsed. The student can be informed that such behavior is distracting and/or inappropriate. Your receptivity to an alienated student will allow him or her to respond more effectively to your concerns.

Next, I want to talk with you about types of behavior you may encounter in the classroom. I would like to let you know that the vast majority of your students will be well behaved, follow classroom etiquette, and will remain engaged in your course. However, you may also encounter students who had not quite developed the ability to cope with life, college relationships, transition issues, and any combination of those things. We often think students are here and they have all of the tools that they need to be successful. Many of our students at APSU do not. They may not be financially stable. They may work full-time, they may have children. Their spouse or partner may be deployed. We serve a very diverse student body and we have many services to assist them. I always say you don't know what you don't know. And our students are a great example. The anxious student is uncertain about expectations and interpersonal conflicts and are the primary causes of anxiety. These students often struggle to make decisions. It is often unsettling for the students. If there are changes to schedules or assignments, professors doesn't adhere to their own rules. Generally speaking, our students engage in alcohol use and marijuana use. If a student comes to class intoxicated, please send them home, of course, making sure that they can get there safely. In these instances, you will also need to report this behavior to student affairs so that we can handle the violation of our student code of conduct. If a student is belligerent, call Campus Police. Please know our campus police department is comprised of state licensed police officers, meaning they have the authority to write moving violations, arrest and jail people, and they carry firearms.

Students sometimes become verbally abusive when confronted with frustrating situations, which they perceive as beyond their control, anger and frustration become displaced from those situations to you. Typically, the anger is not a personal attack, although it may be directed at you in these situations, it is best to try and de-escalate the situation by listening to what the student is frustrated about and setting boundaries about what is appropriate in the classroom. If a student is continuously disrespectful to you, please refer them to Student Affairs. Sometimes you will come in contact with violent or physically aggressive students, and this is very rare on our campus. But violence related to emotional distress typically occurs only when the student is completely frustrated, feels powerless, and is unable to exert sufficient self-control. If a student is a danger to themselves or others, you should immediately contact campus police and Student Affairs. Most of our students are between the ages of 18 and 24. This also happens to be the age range when significant mental health issues begin arising. Students who have poor contact with reality have difficulty distinguishing fantasy from reality. They're thinking is typically illogical, confused, disturbed. They may coin new words, see or hear things which no one else can, have irrational beliefs and exhibit bizarre or inappropriate behavior. Generally, these students are not dangerous and are very scared, frightened, and overwhelmed. It is important that we get these students help as soon as possible. You may try having a conversation with the student explaining your concern and refer them to counseling services in Student Affairs.

Depressed students typically show a multitude of symptoms. Guilt, self-esteem, feelings of worthlessness, and inadequacy, as well as physical symptoms such as decreased or increased appetite. Depressed students are frequently lethargic, but sometimes depression can be accompanied by agitation. If you're worried about a student that may be depressed, refer them to a counseling center or to Student Affairs. Suicide is the second leading cause of preventable death. As college students, a person who's considering suicide may be intensely ambivalent about killing themselves and typically responds to help. Suicidal states are definitely time-limited, and most who die by suicide are neither crazy nor psychotic. Those are the most common descriptions of students you may have contact with.

I have a couple of guidelines that you need to be aware of as faculty members. Number one, always address student concerns directly to the student in private. If you're concerned about a student and you aren't sure how to have a conversation with them, you can always call Student Affairs or counseling services for assistance. We're happy to consult with you on how to have the conversation and make a referral. Number two, if you need to remove or exclude a student from your class due to a disruption, you can do so for one class period only, and you must notify Student Affairs immediately. Number three, faculty at APSU are considered responsible employees. If a student reports sexual or domestic violence, you are required to report that information to the Office of Access, Equity, and Inclusion.

So you may be asking yourself, so what are many resources available to you and our students. One of those resources is the Behavioral Intervention or Care Team. The goal of this team is to provide students and staff of concern with assistance, mitigate risk, or both. The ultimate goal is to help keep the Austin Peay State University community stay healthy and safe through early appropriate intervention, and to promote a safe environment focused on student learning and success. So in order to access the team, there are two places where you can find the referral team. The easiest to remember is to go to One Stop, click on the Employee tab, and then click on the Behavioral Intervention form. A screen will populate and it will ask you to log in. You'll just use your single sign on and fill in the requested information. There's also a tab at the top of the Student Affairs website called Report a Concern. This will take you to the referral form. Any member of the campus community can make a referral. If you're concerned about a student, you should make a referral as soon as possible. Do not wait for a student to be in a full-blown crisis to try and help them or get them help. Please see the resources slide at the end of the presentation for phone numbers and additional information. If you have any questions, you can contact me directly.

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