Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) partners with the Student Support and Advocacy Center to help address concerns about student behaviors that may raise safety and well-being issues.
When should I be concerned about a student?
Students respond to crises or stress in a variety of ways. While there is no universally definitive measure to identify a student of concern, there are a few common warning signs that may indicate distress or significant emotional concern in a student:
- Marked change in personal hygiene
- Apparent depression or lack of energy
- Marked nervousness, agitation, or irritability
- Withdrawal, indecisiveness and/or confusion
- Inappropriately aggressive or abrasive behavior
- Excessive procrastination and/or poorly prepared work
- Pattern of infrequent class attendance, little or no work completed
- Written/verbal comments suggesting thoughts about harm to self or others
- Bizarre, alarming statements, or evidence that a student is engaging in dangerous behaviors
What can I do?
Talk to the student – Expressing concern is appropriate when:
- You feel comfortable doing so
- The student is not experiencing a serious mental health crisis requiring immediate professional help to address safety concerns
If you choose to speak with a student, consider the following:
- Identify the right time and place to avoid interruptions.
- Do NOT promise confidentiality/secrets because depending on what the student discloses you may have to alert professionals to make sure the student and others remain safe.
- Focus on the behaviors, not the person,to minimize the student’s sensitivity and defensiveness when hearing feedback about themselves.
- Avoid judgment and keep your opinions private. Remember, the student’s behavior reflects their struggle to cope effectively with stress or difficult emotions.
- Listen by speaking softly, not interrupting, maintaining eye contact, reflecting back what you are hearing, clarifying, and being patient.
- Suggest helpful resources including seeking support from CAPS.
- Reconnect and follow up on the student’s concerns.
Consult – We recognize that helping a student in distress can be stressful and even overwhelming. Sometimes, students may require professional help to adequately address their problems. For that reason, Mason provides a number of resources to support you and to ensure that the student receives the help they need. Below is the procedure for reaching out to resources for a student.
If you feel there is immediate danger, call Mason Police promptly at either 9-1-1 (when on campus) or (703) 993-2810.
If you do not feel that a student’s concerns rise to the level of an emergency, please contact Student Support and Advocacy Center at (703) 993-3686 to discuss your concerns. Student Support may have had previous contact with the student about whom you are concerned and will be able to use your information to develop an informed plan of action.
CAPS is also available to consult whenever there is a difficult situation; please take advantage of this resource by calling (703) 993-2380 during business hours. Staff can address questions or concerns you have about another student’s well-being, including providing information on where to obtain assistance and guidance about how to approach the student to help them get the support they need.
Counselors are not able to initiate contact with students, who are not active clients. Students need to contact CAPS to make an appointment for consultation/counseling services. If you are concerned that a student will be unable to do this, you may walk them into our office to aid them in the first step of making an appointment or call when they are with you so that they can make an appointment at that time. If you have serious concerns about a student and do not feel they can follow through to help themselves, please contact Student Support and Advocacy Center.