How to help fellow students
As a fellow student, friend, and/or peer, you have a unique opportunity to assist someone in finding help for the distress they are feeling and issues they are struggling with. You observe behaviors and are privileged to information about students that other people in this person’s life may never be able to witness or be told about. Therefore, you are in a unique position to assist them with getting professional help if needed.
The following list contains guidelines to help you decide when you should be concerned about a fellow student and how to refer them for more help:
- Marked changes in appearance
- Marked changes in weight
- Change in pattern of class attendance (i.e. a student who has been attending and doing well suddenly stops going to class)
- Changes in class performance (i.e. a student was doing well in a course and then begins to fail exams or not turn in assignments)
- Change in hygiene behavior or extreme lack of hygiene
- Frequent mood changes and reactivity
- Unusual or aggressive behavior
- Frequently appearing to be under the influence of alcohol or other drug
- Using alcohol or other drugs not as prescribed, with frequency, in excessive amounts, and/or during inappropriate times
- Extreme isolation or hopelessness
They share with you:
- Feelings of hopelessness or depression
- Feelings of excessive, unmanageable anxiety
- Grief over a recent death or loss of loved one
- Substance abuse/dependency issues
- Extreme difficulty adjusting to college life
- Overwhelmed with life circumstances or decisions (i.e. pregnancy, divorce, family difficulties, financial troubles, etc.)
- Experiencing unmanageable obsessive of compulsive behaviors
- Thoughts that are bizarre*
- Hearing or seeing things that others do not perceive*
- Having been the victim of sexual assault or other trauma*
- Shows Warning signs of Suicide** (Please refer to emergency services tab on our webpage to view warning signs.)
- References to self-harm or suicide **
- References to harming someone else or homicide **
* Indicates the student may need immediate help. Call Counseling Services to consult if you are unsure. Suggest to the student that they see someone at Counseling Services for more help.
** Indicates that a student is in need of immediate help! In this case call Counseling Services 609-896-5157 (For Westminster Choir College students, call 609-921-7100 x 8275) and/or Public Safety at 609-896-7777 immediately!
How do I refer someone to the Counseling Services?
- First ask if you can talk and express that you are worried about them.
- Talk to them in a private place where they can feel safe to confide in you.
- Then, share your concerns.
- Be gentle and nonthreatening in your approach.
- You can suggest that you have been noticing some behaviors that concern you and that you would like to speak to them more about this.
- Do not suggest that you know what is wrong but instead just tell them what concerning behaviors you have observed.
- Don’t be critical or judgmental.
- Be sincere and listen carefully.
- Stick to talking about their behavior and not interpreting its meaning. Allow them to explain these behaviors to you.
- Ask about their support system (friends, family, partner, staff and faculty mentors, etc.) and see if they are accessing it.
- Do not promise confidentiality because there are times when what they share may be so concerning that you will need to tell someone else in order to get them more help.
- Tell the student about resources that may be of help to them on or off campus including services we offer here at Counseling Services.
- If the student is willing to speak with you, you may be able to help the student figure out some of the next steps to getting additional help if needed.
- If the student’s problems are more than you yourself can help them with or the student has come to you several times to discuss the same problems which do not appear to be improving or are getting worse, you can delicately suggest that they come speak to someone at Counseling Services.
- Reassure them that what they are going through is normal to some degree but that seeking help is the best thing they can do for themselves right now.
- Talk about the benefits of counseling.
- Tell them about the services that Counseling Services offers.
- Reassure them that the services are free and confidential.
- Look at our website together with them.
- If they feel comfortable, you can be there with them when they make the call! This sometimes helps give a person the courage to take this first step.
- You could also call Counseling Services and let us know that you and the student will be walking over. Once the student is here, we will have them fill out paperwork and determine the next steps.
- If they do not want to talk to you about these behaviors, respect their privacy (unless the situation is a psychological emergency and the student is in need of immediate care, please refer to the list below), but tell them that you are available if they change their mind and want to talk in the future.
- If you feel that the student needs more help, but they are unwilling to speak to you, you should reach out to a staff member of the university that you feel comfortable with. Often this is a Residence Hall Advisor or Director, House Manager, coach, faculty member, or any other staff you have a relationship with. You can also call Counseling Services yourself to consult with us about how to help the student or to express your concerns.
How to decide if the student is in crisis and in need of immediate care:
- You think a student is thinking about suicide.
- The student has physically harmed themselves in some way.
- You think a student is thinking of harming someone else.
- A student appears to be in an altered state in which they are having trouble perceiving reality.
- The student has recently been the victim of a trauma such as a sexual assault.
If a student is in crisis and in need of immediate care during regular business hours call Counseling Services 609-896-5157 (For Westminster Choir College students, call 609-921-7100 x 8275) . For after-hour psychological emergencies, call Public Safety at 609-896-7777 immediately!