Responding to Students In Distress
No one has to do everything. Everyone has to do something.
In your role as a staff or faculty at Evergreen, you may come in contact with students who are distressed. Each member of the Evergreen community has a responsibility to help students succeed. Campus wellness is a campus issue, not solely individual members.
Engage with the student early, as soon as you notice the behavior or suspect the student needs additional support.
If a student earns little or no credit in an academic program they may be required to pay back thousands of dollars for the quarter. Early intervention offers more opportunities to find support for academic success, change programs, or withdraw early with fewer financial penalties.
Offer specific referrals to campus student resources. Students are far more likely to engage with resources if they've been recommended by someone they know.
Email the student after your discussion with links to the resources you recommend. Verbal referrals can be quickly forgotten, especially if the student is in distress.
How To Identify Students in Distress
At one time or another, everyone feels upset or distressed. Sometimes we just have a bad day. However when layers of struggle, challenge, and distress are present over time, it suggests problems or challenges that could warrant more attention. A starting place of response is non-judgment.
Although not disruptive to others in classroom or campus, these behaviors in students may indicate something is wrong and that help may be needed:
- Serious grade problems
- Significant drop in attendance or performance
- Changes in relationships and ways of involvement/interaction
- Marked change in mood, motor activity, or speech
- Changes in behavior, hygiene, affect, and engagement
Engage with the student early, while they still have time to recover from academic struggles.
Offer referral(s) for campus student resources. Students are more inclined to accept a referral when made by someone with whom they have an existing relationship.
Students may not think about other services where they may receive support or connect with others:
Student Activities - student groups, student governance, and events
TRiO support for low-income individuals, first-generation college students, and individuals with disabilities
Veterans Resource Center for veterans and their dependents
These behaviors in students may indicate significant emotional distress or a reluctance or inability to acknowledge a need for personal help:
- Repeated requests for special considerations
- New or regularly occurring behavior that pushes the limits and may interfere with class or program management or is disruptive to others
- Unusual, exaggerated, and/or persistent emotional responses
It is within an employee's rights to ask a student to remove themselves until they are able to engage with appropriate behavior.
Students agree to abide by the Social Contract, Student Conduct Code, program syllabus, and program covenant. Students may face many challenges and Evergreen offers student resources to support students in achieving their academic goals.
If the behavior does not resolve after a discussion, submit a Report of Community Concern to the CARE Team and include your documentation of related interactions. Inform the student of the referral to CARE, and let them know to expect (and follow up with) outreach from the CARE Team. Refer the student's behavior to Student Rights and Responsibilities, even if it is not immediately clear the behavior is a violation of the Code.
Regardless of the underlying reason for the disruptive behavior, students may not behave in a manner that disrupts the learning environment or impedes an employee's ability to perform their work. The disruptive behavior must be addressed early; the underlying source of the behavior can be addressed by appropriate support services to help the student flourish at Evergreen and beyond.
In many cases, these behaviors may show that a student is in crisis and needs emergency care:
- Highly disruptive behavior (hostility, aggression, etc)
- Inability to communicate clearly (garbled, slurred speech, disjointed thoughts)
- Loss of contact with reality
- Overt suicidal or homicidal thoughts or threats
- Individuals deficient in skills that regulate emotion, cognition, self, behavior, and relationships
If there is an imminent threat of harm to themselves or others, call 911.
Tools for Communicating/Responding
If the situation is less severe, you think the student might be open to discussing their concerns with you, and you are comfortable and willing to do so:
- Calmly and respectfully express your concerns and share that you have noticed they have been having difficulties. Use specific examples to describe the behavior.
- Listen sensitively and compassionately
- Offer clear paths to support highlighting resources and referrals that the student may utilize
- Restate any boundaries, expectations, and/or plan you determined together
- Email the student to document the discussion and agreement(s) made, include a warning about referring the student's behavior to Student Rights and Responsibilities
- Follow up as appropriate
If the situation is more severe, or disruptive, and you feel comfortable having a conversation with the student
- Express your care
- Acknowledge and share your concerns with specific observable behaviors they are exhibiting
- Offer consideration of resources, offer specific referrals that make sense for the situation
- Restate expectations and reaffirm boundaries of your role and setting
- Email the student to document the discussion, agreement(s), and a warning about referring the student's behavior to Student Rights and Responsibilities
- Engage with the student and document your concerns EARLY! Early intervention is preferred rather than allowing a situation to escalate and continue to impact our community, or hinder a student's academic success.
Respond to those students who disclose their personal concerns and lives to you by:
- Active & Genuine Listening
- Avoid judging, labeling, and/or diagnosing behaviors or a person's reality
- Keep your own limits and boundaries in mind, do not promise anything you can't guarantee
- Making sure you and the student(s) are "safe" to the best of your ability
- Refer to resources as needed and available
If the crisis is life threatening or behavior is extreme
- Call Police 911 or (360) 867-6140
- Be calm, clear, and simple
- Do your best to maintain the safety of all parties; if you feel escalation is happening do not attempt an intervention. Keep your distance and continue to monitor until other help has arrived.
If the concern is specific to Title IX, please contact the Title IX Coordinator (360) 867-5224 / SEM 1 4119 as a responsible employee.
If the concern is specific to discrimination, harassment, or retaliation, please contact the Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity office (360) 867-5371 / LIB 3102.
Remember you may always consult with the CARE Team.
Self care is important for those involved in the situation, including you and others who are supporting that person. Services and resources are available for you!
TAO is a free resource for anyone with an @evergreen.edu email account.
An easy to access online program that provides support for anxiety, depression and other common concerns. TAO includes videos and complete skill-building exercises. Users must use their @evergreen.edu e-mail address to enroll. Sign up here.
Important update: TAO has launched an updated platform. Greeners with an existing account on the old platform will need to register for a new account here.
TAO is an interactive, dynamic, easy-to-access online program that provides support for anxiety, depression and other common concerns. As a TAO participant, each week you will watch short videos, and complete skill-building exercises.
TAO is tailored to fit your schedule and your needs:
- The exercises can be completed through a smartphone, tablet, or computer
- The online TAO programs are accessible 24/7
- Look for the TAO app in your app store. (Register online before downloading the TAO app)
TAO is an effective and easy-to-access option for managing your anxiety, depression, or other concerns. If you are interested in trying out this program or if you have any questions, comments, or feedback, feel free to contact Student Wellness Services.