As a caring educational community, we at Columbia College Chicago believe that when we are aware of any student who is in crisis, it is our responsibility to provide the student with appropriate assistance. College students often encounter a great deal of stress during the course of their academic experience. While most students cope successfully with the challenges of college life, an increasing number of students find the various pressures of these challenges unmanageable and unbearable. This guide can help you in assisting students who demonstrate and/or disclose emotional distress. Each of us has our own comfort level. Remember, do the best you can. The most important thing is that you do something.
On rare occasions, you may find yourself interacting with a student who is experiencing distress so extreme they may pose a possible danger to themselves or others. Such cases are psychological/behavioral emergencies that require immediate intervention.
Observable indications of potential immediate risk due to a psychological emergency may include:
- Threatening to harm self or others verbally or in writing
- Talking about not being around or giving possessions away
- Expressing self-destructive or homicidal ideation
- Actions that are violent and/or intimidating
- Loss of rationality
- Venting, screaming, swearing, etc.
- Experiencing hallucinations (hearing, seeing, feeling things that no one else hears, sees, or feels). For example, hearing voices, seeing objects, or living things not heard or seen by others.
If you believe that a student is experiencing a psychological / behavioral emergency and is at immediate risk of harming themselves or the college community call 911, then notify Campus Safety and Security at 312-369-1111. To submit an Alert, log into MyColumbia and you will see a “Student Success (EASE)” tab at the top of the page (this was formerly the EASE tab). If you intend to submit an Alert, you will be prompted to use your Single-Sign-On (SSO) credentials to access the platform. A complete guide to submitting alerts can be found here.
Emotional / Psychological Crisis
At times you may interact with students who are experiencing an emotional / psychological crisis, and in need of immediate but not emergency intervention. Signs of an emotional / psychological crisis may include:
- Expressing feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, or foreshortened future
- Abnormally elevated or agitated mood
- Reports having been recently sexually assaulted.
- Reports having recently experienced trauma in the form of witnessing or experiencing sexual and/or physical violence
If you believe a student is experiencing an emotional / psychological crisis, contact Student Relations at 312-369-8595. Counseling Services and Student Relations is currently providing all services through a virtual settting.
If a student is not in immediate crisis and needs support for issues that do not require immediate attention, please complete an Alert in the Student Success Communications (SSC) platform
How do I help a student access Counseling Services?
College students often encounter a great deal of stress during the course of their academic experience. While most students cope successfully with the challenges of college life, an increasing number of students find the various pressures of these challenges unmanageable and unbearable. If you observe or have spoken to a student who is struggling in some capacity, you may want to make a referral to Counseling Services.
Behavioral signs of possible distress:
- Loss of academic efficiency: serious grade problems; excessive absences; marked change in previous level of performance
- Withdrawal: significant relational/social isolation; not leaving residence hall room for sustained periods
- Anxiety: pacing, muscle tension, sweating, etc; and impaired thinking: worrying, ruminating, easily distracted, etc.
- Depression: excessive crying, fatigue, change of appetite, disturbed or excessive sleeping, change in hygiene, negative thinking along themes of hopelessness and helplessness
- Dramatic increase in alcohol or drug use
If you observe or have spoken to a student who is demonstrating emotional distress
- Let the student know that you've noticed changes in behavior and that they seem to be struggling. Be specific regarding the behaviors that raise concerns, such as "You've been crying," or "You're no longer participating in class." Or “You’ve had to leave class on multiple occasions.”
- Ask if the student would like to talk with you about it.
- Listen. Try not to rush to fix, advise, correct, or disagree
- Empathize. Reflect on what you the student says and what it would be like to be in the student's situation
- Normalize. Acknowledge and discuss the student's fears and concerns
- Speak directly to the student in a straightforward fashion
- For students who seem to need more than you are able or willing to provide, or if professional counseling seems indicated, suggest that a mental health professional at Counseling Services or Student Relations might be helpful and that these professionals are available to provide confidential help to students dealing with problems or concerns like theirs.
- Refrain from coercing or tricking the student into seeking counseling. The option must be left open for the student to accept or refuse counseling EXCEPT in emergencies
- Follow up with the student later to indicate a continued interest, even if he or she did not accept the referral
What about students who won’t go to Counseling Services?
If it seems clear that a student might benefit from counseling, but is reluctant to go, you might mention any of the following that seem appropriate for that student:
- The student might try one session to see how it seems.
- The visit will be kept confidential, except in an emergency or current child abuse.
- All the student has to do to get an appointment is call or go to Counseling Services and ask for an appointment.
- Students with very troubling concerns often get help at the Counseling Services.
- A person doesn't have to be seriously disturbed or wait until there is a crisis to benefit from accessing Counseling Services.
- Counseling Services will make referrals to counselors and agencies in the community if the student prefers to go outside for counseling.
- Using Counseling Services doesn't mean a person is weak for not handling their problems on their own, but often means they are wise for utilizing an available resource.
- Give the student a Counseling Services brochure that they can consider on their own.
- Follow up with the student to give him/her another opportunity to talk.
How do I know if a student is getting services?
The staff at Counseling Services can provide consultation to members of the Columbia College Community who may be concerned about a student's emotional wellbeing. If you are concerned about a student and want to discuss an issue, please contact Counseling Services at 312-369-8700. We can listen to your concerns and assist you in developing a plan to best support the student. As a reminder, professional standards of confidentiality are followed by the entire Counseling Services Staff. Personal health information provided to our office is protected unless a student provides written permission to release that information. Exceptions to this policy exist when confidential information is needed to protect a student’s health or safety or is mandated by law.
Information about common mental health conditions
PDF CS Brochure
Suicide Prevention and Response Protocol