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Counseling Center

Distressed Students

It is our goal to work with other University professionals as part of a multidisciplinary team to work together in reaching out to students in distress. Following is a guideline to assist you and your staff.

Description of Services and Structure

The Counseling Center (951) 785-2011 is the primary source for psychological and career counseling for undergraduate and graduate students.  The Counseling Center is staffed by professional counselors including a marriage and family therapist, and a licensed clinical social worker.  The Counseling Center also provides consultation to faculty and staff on student and student-life problems.

The Counseling Center is located on the first floor of La Sierra Hall, Room 115.  The primary mission of the office is to assist students in the successful completion of their academic programs though maintaining and enhancing students’ psychological and emotional well-being, and to help them function to their potential.

Recognizing Students in Distress

As a member of the faculty or staff, you may find yourself in a position to observe and recognize changes which signal psychological distress in students.  This is not to imply that you are to be a “watch dog,” but rather that students often seek out faculty and staff to share their distress.  At other times, you may become concerned with the behavior you have observed in one of your students.  Being able to identify students in distress, having some guidelines for dealing with distressed students, and being aware of appropriate referral resources that can assist you will allow you to be more in control of situations which may present themselves.  Listed below is some basic information on the more common signs of psychological distress observed in college students.

  1. Emotional Problems.  College can be a difficult experience, and it is not unusual for students to experience problems, the most common of which are related to depression and anxiety.  While just about everyone gets depressed from time to time, persons suffering from significant levels of depression exhibit and array of symptoms. 
    The symptoms of depression are:  insomnia or change in sleep patterns, inability to concentrate, change in appetite, loss of ability to experience happiness or pleasure, apathy, sloppiness, crying, poor personal hygiene, feelings of worthlessness, no desire to socialize, loss of self esteem, and preoccupation with death.  Having only one symptom is usually not enough to describe someone as severely depressed.  However, when several of these symptoms occur for an extended period of time, a person may be experiencing a depressive episode. 
    Although many students experience high stress at college, some develop emotional problems related to anxiety.  Students suffering from anxiety problems can experience panic attacks or extreme fearfulness of specific situations (e.g., being in public places).  Exposure to a traumatic experience can also cause a student to develop anxiety problems, symptoms of which include flashbacks, avoiding things associated with the traumatic event, and being easily startled.  When symptoms such as these interfere with a student’s life, they may be experiencing an anxiety disorder.

  2. Unusual acting out.  This would represent a change in behavior from normal socially appropriate behavior.  It would include being repeatedly and excessively disruptive, overly antagonistic, or acting in a bizarre or peculiar manner.  In some cases, alcohol or drug abuse may be involved.

  3. Suicidal ideation.  The most seriously distressed student may consider doing harm to him or herself.  Many suicide attempts are preceded by messages that the person is considering suicide.  Verbal messages can range from “I wish I weren’t here,” to a very direct “I’m going to kill myself.”  Some non-verbal signals include giving away valued possessions, and putting legal, financial , and University affairs in order, a preoccupation with death, withdrawal or boredom, a history of depression, and poor grooming habits.  Each type of message about suicide should be taken seriously and may require immediate faculty or staff intervention.

  4. Other signs of distress.  Again, the more symptoms observed, the more likely the individual is to be truly distressed.  It is important to observe changes from a student’s previous behavior.  These signs may include a drop in class attendance or a drop in quality of class work, a more generally tense or shad appearance, and the development of inappropriate or bizarre responses such as talking off-the-subject and rambling or laughing inappropriately.
       

Guidelines for Dealing with Students in Distress

Each person has his/her own style of approaching and responding to others.  As such, there are no absolutely correct procedures for dealing with a distressed student.  Nevertheless, listed below are some suggestions and guidelines for dealing with a student who is in distress.

  1. Talk to the student.  Let the student know your concerns and ask if they are feeling distressed.  Try to identify the problem area.
  2. Be accepting and non-judgmental.  Help them determine what the problem might be without minimizing their feelings or judging them for feeling distressed.
  3. Reinforce the student for confiding in you.  Acknowledge your recognition that they are hurting.
  4. Know your limits as a helper.  While talking to the student you may find you are unable to provide adequate assistance or do not feel comfortable trying to help someone cope with his/her problem; that is, you sense that the person is in need of much more time than you can honestly give or requires much deeper exploration of the problem area.  If this is the case, it is important that you indicate in a gentle but direct manner that professional assistance is the positive step which is needed to deal with the pain, and that you will assist them in finding competent professionals.
  5. Use the resources available.  Know the resources that are available to you (which are listed at the end of this brochure).  Don’t hesitate to contact these resources for consultation if you are not sure how to proceed.  The Counseling Center always has someone on duty who can consult with you.  Should you determine that your best course of action probably lies in helping him/her get assistance, you may proceed as described in the following example.

Referring a student who is in distress - an example

A student comes into your office and begins to describe problems that are interfering with his/her academic work.  At a break in the discussion, you might say:

“It sounds as though you have been under a lot of stress lately, are not doing very well, and would like to talk to someone about this.  I would suggest that you see someone at the Counseling Center as I know they are well qualified to help and often work with students with similar concerns.  I would be very happy to call and make arrangements for you to talk to someone.  Would you be agreeable to my calling and making arrangements for you right now?”

Faculty Referral Form for Students in Distress

If you are concerned about a student's emotional, behavioral, and personal well-being and would like for the Counseling Center to contact the student, please download and fill out our referral form. This information will be used by the LSU Cares Team to make contact with the student and assess the situation. Please be advised that referral information will be shared with the student.

Click here to download the Faculty Referral Form

Due to confidentiality, this form cannot be submitted electronically for privacy purposes. Please either fax (951) 785-2122 or call (951) 785-2167 to submit the information directly to the Dean of Students.
 

Guidelines for Dealing with a Student who may be Suicidal

If you are worried that a student may be considering suicide, it is alright to directly ask if he or she is thinking about killing him or herself.  Professionals assess suicide potential, in part, by asking:

a.)    What the plan for suicide is – exactly how will they do it?  Do they have access to a means such as pills or a weapon?

b.)   When and where they intend to carry out the plan?

c.)    If they’ve ever attempted suicide before.  If yes, how and when.

The more specific and lethal the plan, the more recent a previous attempt, and the greater the ability to carry out the plan, the higher the risk of a successful suicide.  You need not be afraid to ask these questions.  For people who are considering suicide, these questions will not furnish them with new ideas.  Most people who are actively suicidal are more than willing to discuss their plan.  Conversely, many people consider suicide from time to time in passing.  The less specific and lethal the plan (e.g. “I guess I’d take a couple sleeping pills sometime.”), the less likely a suicide attempt.

Again, please keep in mind that if you are uncomfortable or have any questions in dealing with this issue, the best course of action is to consult with the Counseling Center.

Referring a suicidal student – an example:

You have been talking to a student and are so concerned that the student is at risk for suicide that you would feel uncomfortable if they simply walked out of your office.  In such a case it is recommended that you indicate to the student that you need to contact the Counseling Center immediately for advice on how to be of assistance.  You should then call the Counseling Center during work hours (campus security after hours or weekends) and ask to speak with the emergency or on-call counselor immediately for consultation to determine how to best proceed.  Often, once you have contacted the on-call counselor, the student will be agreeable to speaking to the counselor directly on the phone and will make follow-up arrangements to meet with the counselor.  It may be determined, in consultation with the on-call counselor,  that it is best for you to escort the student to the Counseling Center to allow for an assessment.  On some occasions, it may be best for the counselor to make arrangements to come to your office to meet with you and the student to assist in the assessment.

Faculty Referral Form for Students in Distress

If you are concerned about a student's emotional, behavioral, and personal well-being and would like for the Counseling Center to contact the student, please download and fill out our referral form. This information will be used by the LSU Cares Team to make contact with the student and assess the situation. Please be advised that referral information will be shared with the student.

Click here to download the Faculty Referral Form

Due to confidentiality, this form cannot be submitted electronically for privacy purposes. Please either fax (951) 785-2122 or call (951) 785-2167 to submit the information directly to the Dean of Students.
   

Guidelines for Dealing with Students who may be Potentially Dangerous

Campus violence is a serious concern and as such needs to be taken seriously by anyone aware of a potentially violent situation.  From time to time you may become aware of or develop a concern that a student may be dangerous to others.  Some signals that a student is potentially dangerous include:

a.)   Physically violent behavior

b.)   Verbally threatening or overly aggressive behavior

c.)   Threatening e-mail or letters

d.)   Threatening or violent material on academic papers or exams.

e.)   Harassment, including sexual harassment and stalking

f.)    Possession of a weapon, particularly a firearm

Sometimes these behaviors are the result of or are exacerbated by mental illness.  You need to take appropriate action to protect both the potential victim and the potentially dangerous student.  If the danger appears imminent you should contact campus security ((951) 785-2222 or 911 immediately for assistance.  If you are uncertain about the course of action to take, it is recommended you contact any or all of the following for consultation and assistance:

a.)    Your department chair

b.)   The Dean of Student Life at (951) 785-2100

c.)    The Counseling Center at: (951) 785-2011 (daytime ; after hours campus security  )

d.)    La Sierra University Campus Security at (951) 785-2222

The Dean of Student Life Office, the Dean of Dormitory, the Health Services, the Counseling Center, and the Campus Security Office often work together to investigate and assess the dangerousness of a student to help formulate preventive interventions and to outline and provide security measures that might be available to those who have this need.

Faculty Referral Form for Students in Distress

If you are concerned about a student's emotional, behavioral, and personal well-being and would like for the Counseling Center to contact the student, please download and fill out our referral form. This information will be used by the LSU Cares Team to make contact with the student and assess the situation. Please be advised that referral information will be shared with the student.

Click here to download the Faculty Referral Form

Due to confidentiality, this form cannot be submitted electronically for privacy purposes. Please either fax (951) 785-2122 or call (951) 785-2167 to submit the information directly to the Dean of Students.
   

Campus Resources

Psychological Emergencies:

Call the Counseling Center, (951) 785-2011.  Monday-Thursday; 9:00 am to 5:00 pm; Friday 9:00am to 12:00pm, La Sierra Hall, Room 115.  (At all other times call Campus Security (951) 785-2222; and or the On Call Health Services Nurse. (An on-call emergency duty counselor would be available for consultation.)

Medical Emergencies:

Call Campus Security, (951) 785-2222 (24 hours/day). Health Services, (951) 785-2200 (24 hr. on-call service).

Student Health Services: 

Call the Student Health Services (951) 785-2200 

Monday – Thursday; 8:00 am to 12:00 pm

1:00 pm – 5:00 pm

Friday – 8:00 am to 12:00 pm

Physically Abusive Students:

Call Campus Security, (951) 785-2222 (24 hours/day)

 

Off-Campus Psychological Resources (back to top)

Emergency Rooms:

Loma Linda Behavioral Medicine Center

1710 Barton Road

Redlands, CA 92373

(909) 793-9333

Emergency Treatment Services/County

(951) 358-4882

Other Hospital Emergency Rooms: 

call 911 (9,911 if from a campus phone!)

Outpatient Clinics:

Riverside County Substance Abuse Program

(909) 955-2105

(909) 778-3500

Crisis Lines, Information and Referral Services:

Alcoholics Anonymous-Inland Empire

(909) 825-4700

Alcoholics Anonymous - Riverside County

(951) 695-1535

24-Hour Help Line

(951) 686-4357

24-Hour Rape Crisis Hotline

(909) 686-7273

Contact Us

Counseling Center

La Sierra University

4500 Riverwalk Parkway

Riverside, CA 92515

 

951.785.2011

951.785.2222 emergency

 

Office Location:

Convenience Center

11498 Pierce Street, Suite #B

Riverside, CA  92505

 

Office Hours:

Monday - Thursday

9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

 

Friday

9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

 

Summer Hours:

By Appointment Only

 

Monday - Thursday

8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

 

Friday

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