Santa Clara University

Counseling & Psychological Services

Helping The Distressed Student

Most students come to CAPS for help on their own. But sometimes they come as a result of the recommendation of a friend, roommate, or faculty/staff person who has suggested it to them at some point.

Faculty/staff has the opportunity to observe students in campus life, during meals, studying, socializing, and taking care of academic or personal business. You may also observe students' performance on written and creative work. And students may come to you for help or advice, or mention that they are struggling.

Common concerns of students in distress include worries about their academic performance, finances, or the future; their families at home, romantic partners, friends, or roommates; how to manage food, time, money, socializing, etc. They may be having symptoms related to a mood disorder, chemical dependency, or a traumatic event. Students' distress will become observable to you when they tell you, a friend of theirs tells you, or when it affects their day to day functioning.

Common signs to faculty/staff that a student is in trouble:
  • Unexplained absences for appointments
  • Excessive procrastination
  • Concerns expressed by friends/roommates
  • Sleepiness or excessive inattentiveness
  • Questions that reveal excessive confusion
  • Change in personal hygiene
  • Coming to meals or appointments under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Noticeable weight change
  • Depressed or disturbed content in written work
  • Strange behavior or speech
  • Excessive advice-seeking
  • Excessive requests/demands for contact
  • Unduly abrasive or aggressive behavior
  • Social withdrawal
How can CAPS help?

In two ways: we can offer help to you in approaching the student, and we can offer services to the student.

As part of the Jesuit University's mission to address the needs of the whole person, we are here to help students solve developmental or personal problems in order to get all they can from their university experience.

We offer free and confidential psychotherapy for students, and assessment and referral for alumni. Depending on demand, we also may offer groups on relationships, stress reduction, eating and weight concerns, chemical dependency, and support for various issues. We also provide workshops and presentations for the University community.

Ways to make a referral to CAPS:

You can ask the student to call us or come in to an appointment during our regular office hours Monday-Friday 8 AM-5 PM. We are open some evening hours too but only by appointment. We are located inthe Cowell Center (across from the tennis courts).

You can call us while the student is in your office to be sure that the student makes an appointment. Our number is 408-554-4172.

If you feel the situation is a crisis, you can walk the student over to the Cowell Center, where we will try to see the student immediately.

There is a student I'm worried about. Should I approach him/her?

If you are wondering about how to address the problem, feel free to call any one of us at CAPS. Faculty/staff have used us to answer specific questions, to be a sounding bound for developing a plan of how to approach a student, even to come speak to a residence hall or other group about an issue when it is relevant.

Common Concerns about approaching a distressed student and/or making the suggestion to get counseling:
  • It's none of my business
  • I don't know enough to tell if this is serious
  • The student won't want to talk about it
  • The student will be embarrassed
  • The student won't admit to a problem
  • I don't want to get involved
  • The student will think I'm saying s/he's crazy
  • I'll say something that makes the problem worse
Can on-campus help really be confidential?

Talking with one of us here at CAPS can clarify your concerns and help you decide what to do in specific cases. In general, faculty/staff feels positively about addressing their concerns with a student, even when the student does not respond by getting help. While this can raise feelings of frustration or helplessness, most times faculty/staff feels that at least they have voiced their concerns, which is what is in their power to do. And the benefit of their conversation may not be realized until later.

CAPS does not release information about who is or has been seem to anyone within the University unless given the client's written permission. This means that under most circumstances, in order to find out whether a student has followed through with a referral, you will have to ask the student him/herself, and there will be times you won't know what happened as a result of your conversation. The CAPS faculty/staff understands this dilemma for faculty/staff who refer.

If the student you are worried about is uncomfortable using the on-campus resources, you can also call us to get a list of community resources to offer him/her.

Suggestions for faculty/staff who decide to talk to the student:
  • Decide ahead of time whether you want to invite the student to explain/explore what is distressing; or rather convey your concern and direct him/her to CAPS without inviting the student's self-disclosure.
  • Stay matter of fact, respectful, clear, direct.
  • Point out the specific, observable things that have worried you.
  • Remember that the student may be highly anxious or confused and may need you to repeat yourself.
  • Let the student know that there is help for problems, that life can be better.
What if it seems to be an emergency?

If a student is threatening him/herself or another person and there is imminent danger of harm, call Campus Safety (x4444) and 9-1-1. Then call the student's Resident Director (if the student is living on campus) and CAPS (554-4172) to alert us of the situation.

If the student is in some other kind of crisis and you'd like some help, call us. After hours, call Campus Safety and have them page us. Staff at the Crisis Line (279-3112) or Rape Crisis Hotline (287-3000) may also be helpful.

What if the person I'm worried about is another faculty/staff member?

We can help you with how to approach the person with your concerns. The university offers an employee assistance program that provides assessment and referral services. Contact Human Resources (554-4392) to obtain information on who the current EAP carrier is.

What do I do after I've called you, and talked to the person?

If you are willing, convey your ongoing interest in the person's situation. Sometimes, perhaps usually, the decision to seek counseling is made over time. You may have a series of conversations and observe the person work through his/her initial resistance to the point that they are willing to get help.

Whatever assistance you may need from CAPS, whether it is to find out more about a particular disorder, brainstorm how to talk to a student, or just feel less alone in a complicated situation, we are here to help.

Helpful Numbers:
  • Crisis/Suicide 408-279-3312
  • Rape 408-287-3000
  • Battered Women 408-279-2962
  • Legal Aid (9am -5pm) 408-998-5200
  • AIDS information 800-342-2437
  • Alcoholics Anonymous 408-374-8511
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