Resources

The Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs is committed to promoting health and safety for Towson University students. Faculty, professional staff, and graduate students are often the first to encounter a student who is experiencing distress. Encouraging and assisting the student to seek help with appropriate campus and community resources is an important first step.

If there is a potential for imminent danger to self or others, immediately call TUPD (410) 704-4444 or Baltimore County Police 911. After you have called the police, it is helpful if you contact the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs so we are aware of the situation and may follow up appropriately.

The following information is from Helping Students in Distress: A Faculty/Staff Resource Guide developed by staff within the Division of Student Affairs at Towson University.

For comments or questions, please contact the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs at (410) 704-2055.

What You Can Do?

Introduction

A faculty or staff member is often the first person to recognize when a student is in distress and to reach out to that student. Faculty and staff are not expected to provide personal counseling to students. Rather, faculty and staff play an important role in encouraging students to use campus resources, including facilitating a referral to the Counseling Center, Health Center, and Disability Support Services.

We encourage you to speak directly to students when you sense that they are in academic or personal distress. Openly acknowledge that you are aware of their distress, that you are sincerely concerned about their welfare and that you are willing to help them explore their options.

If you are very concerned about a student and need University consultation and assistance, call the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs, (410) 704-2055 and/or submit a CARE Form.

Suggestions in Providing Support and Encouragement for Students:

• Request to see the student in private.
• Briefly acknowledge your observations and perceptions of the student’s situation and express your concerns directly and honestly.
• Listen carefully to what the student is troubled about and try to see the issue from his or her point of view without agreeing or disagreeing.
• Follow up with the student to see how he or she is doing.
• Strange and inappropriate behavior should not be ignored. The student can be informed that such behavior is distracting and inappropriate.
• Your ability to connect with an alienated student will allow him or her to respond more effectively to your concerns.
• Help the student identify options for action and explore possible consequences; if possible offer to phone or accompany the student to the Counseling Center or other resources.
• Avoid labeling the student’s behavior or the issues presented.
• Inform the student about what can be gained by meeting with a counselor to talk about his or her problems.
• Be open about the limits of your ability to help the student.
• If the student appears to be in imminent danger of hurting self or others, consult the Counseling Center or the Towson University Police immediately. Do not promise to keep threats to self or others secret.

 

Important Phone nUmbers

Confidential Resources

Alcohol & Other Drug Counseling: (410) 704-2512
Counseling Center: (410) 704-2512
Health Center: (410) 704-2466
TurnAround Domestic Violence Center and Services: (443) 279-0379

Other Support Resources

Disability Support Services: (410) 704-2638
Office of Inclusion & Institutional Equity: (410) 704-2360
• Office of Fair Practices: (410) 704-2361
Center for Student Diversity: (410) 704-2051
Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs: (410) 704-2055
International Student and Scholar Office: (410) 704-2421
African American Student Development: (410) 704-2051
Asian Pacific Islander/Latino Student Development: (410) 704-2051
LGBTQA Resources: (410) 704-2051
Housing and Residence Life: (410) 704-2516
Off Campus Student Services: (410) 704-3521
Women’s Resources: (410) 704-2051
Towson University PD: (410) 704-4444
Your Academic College Dean's Office (see TU Directory)

What You Can Do 

A faculty or staff member is often the first person to recognize when a student is in distress and to reach out to that student.  Faculty and staff are not expected to provide personal counseling to students.  Rather, faculty and staff play an important role in encouraging students to use campus resources, including facilitating a referral to the Counseling Center, Health Center, and Disability Support Services.

We encourage you to speak directly to students when you sense that they are in academic or personal distress.  Openly acknowledge that you are aware of their distress, that you are sincerely concerned about their welfare and that you are willing to help them explore their options.

If you are very concerned about a student and need University consultation and assistance, call the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs, 410- 704-2055 and/or submit a CARE Form

The following are suggestions in providing support and encouragement for students:

  • Request to see the student in private.
  • Briefly acknowledge your observations and perceptions of the student’s situation and express your concerns directly and honestly.
  • Listen carefully to what the student is troubled about and try to see the issue from his or her point of view without agreeing or disagreeing.
  • Follow up with the student to see how he or she is doing.
  • Strange and inappropriate behavior should not be ignored. The student can be informed that such behavior is distracting and inappropriate.
  • Your ability to connect with an alienated student will allow him or her to respond more effectively to your concerns.
  • Help the student identify options for action and explore possible consequences; if possible offer to phone or accompany the student to the Counseling Center or other resources.
  • Avoid labeling the student’s behavior or the issues presented.
  • Inform the student about what can be gained by meeting with a counselor to talk about his or her problems.
  • Be open about the limits of your ability to help the student.
  • If the student appears to be in imminent danger of hurting self or others, consult the Counseling Center or the Towson University Police immediately. Do not promise to keep threats to self or others secret.

Signs of Distress

Academic Problems

• Career and course indecision
• Excessive procrastination
• Uncharacteristically poor preparation or performance
• Repeated requests for extensions or special considerations
• Disruptive classroom behavior
• Excessive absence/tardiness
• Avoiding or dominating discussions
• References to suicide or harm to others in verbal statements or writing

Behavioral Problems

• Change in personal hygiene
• Dramatic weight gain or loss
• Frequently falling asleep in class
• Irritability
• Unruly behavior
• Impaired speech
• Disjointed thoughts
• Tearfulness
• Intense emotion
• Inappropriate responses
• Difficulty concentrating
• Physically harming self
• Destruction of property
• Anxiety and panic
• Inability to communicate clearly
• Loss of reality contact (e.g., hallucinations, poor thought connections)

Interpersonal Problems

• Always asking for help with personal problems
• Dependency
• Hanging around the office
• Withdrawing
• Disruptive behavior
• Inability to get along with others
• Complaints from other students

Common Causes of Emotional Distress

• Relationship problems/break-ups
• Family problems
• Grief and loss
• Divorce of parents
• Loneliness
• Academic pressure or failure
• Serious illness or injury
• Difficulty adjusting to university life
• Anxiety
• Eating disorders
• Difficulty adjusting to American culture
• Sexual or physical abuse or assault
• Identity confusion
• Depression
• Drug/alcohol abuse
• Career indecision
• Loss of goal or dream
• Low self-esteem
• Unplanned or undesired pregnancy
• Language barriers
• Financial problems

 

Types of Behaviors

Troubling Behavior

Troubling behavior from a student usually causes us to feel alarmed, upset or worried. When faculty or staff members encounter troubling behavior, they feel concerned about the student’s well-being. Students exhibiting troubling behavior may have difficulties in and out of the classroom.

Some examples of troubling behavior include:
• A student who jokes about killing himself or herself.
• A student who perspires profusely when giving a presentation in front of the class.
• A student who discloses that his or her loved one was diagnosed with a terminal or serious illness.
• A student who seems to work harder than most students but can’t pass an exam.
• A student who appears to be losing significant weight yet speaks with pride about how little he or she eats.
• A student whose writing appears disjointed and fragmented as though he or she cannot maintain a logical sequence of thought.
• A student who reports that FBI agents are following him or her around campus.

Interventions for Troubling Behavior

Faculty and staff have options for responding to student behavior that they find troubling. If a university professional is unsure how to respond to a troubled student, here are some suggestions:
• Seek advice and counsel from the department chair or supervisor, the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs or the University Counseling Center.
• Initiate a discussion with the student about the behavior that is of concern.
• If you believe the situation deserves university attention or follow up, call the Counseling Center (410) 704-2512, Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs (410) 704-2055, and/or refer the student to the CARE Team by filing a report.

Disruptive Behavior

Specific examples of disruptive behavior include:
• A student who verbally abuses or intimidates another
• A student who is overly demanding of faculty or staff
• A student who interrupts the educational process in the class by
making hostile remarks out of turn or ggressively taking over the lecture
• A student who notably disrupts the environment outside the classroom

Interventions for Disruptive Behavior

• Verbally request that the student stop the disruptive behavior.
• If the problem persists, ask the student to leave the class or the area.
• Initiate a discussion with the student about the behavior that is of concern.
• Inform the student of the behavior that needs to change, define a timeline for when the change needs to be made, and explain the consequences if the change does not occur.
• After meeting with the student, document the content of the meeting in writing. It is sometimes helpful and/or necessary to provide the student with a written copy of the requirements and the consequences discussed.
• Contact the department chair or supervisor for advice and support.
• Consult with the Counseling Center to debrief and assist you, staff members and other students.
• Consult with the Office of Student Conduct & Civility Education about possible next steps.
• Refer the student to the CARE Team through filing a report.
• If the situation is serious and requires immediate assistance, call the Towson University Police at (410) 704-2133.

Threatening Behavior

Threatening behavior from a student typically leaves us feeling frightened and in fear for our personal safety. These behaviors should be taken very seriously. If you have concerns about immediate safety, call the Towson University Police at
(410) 704-4444.

Examples of threatening behavior include:
• A student who implies or makes a direct threat to harm him or herself or others
• A student who displays a firearm or weapon
• A student who physically confronts or attacks another person
• A student who stalks or harasses another person
• A student who sends threatening e-mails, letters or other correspondence to another person

Interventions for Threatening Behavior

• Immediately contact TUPD at (410) 704-4444.
• Contact the department chair/supervisor for advice and support.
• Inform the Office of Student Conduct & Civility Education and file a complaint.
• Consult with the Counseling Center to debrief and assist you, staff members and other students.

 

Types of Threatening Behaviors

Suicide

Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among college students. Suicidal persons are intensely ambivalent about killing themselves and typically respond to help; suicidal states are definitely time-limited and most who commit suicide are neither crazy nor psychotic.

High-risk indicators include: feelings of hopelessness and futility; a severe loss or threat of loss; a detailed suicide plan; history of a previous attempt; history of alcohol or drug abuse; and feelings of alienation and isolation. Suicidal students usually want to communicate their feelings; any opportunity to do so should be encouraged.

Do:
• Be available to listen, to talk, to be concerned.
• Acknowledge that a threat or attempt at suicide is a plea for help.
• Take the student seriously. Eighty percent of those attempting suicide give warning of their intent.
• Refer the student to the Counseling Center or other appropriate resources to provide additional support.
Refer the student to the CARE Team through filing a report.

Don’t:
• Don’t minimize the situation or depth of feeling, e.g., “Oh, it will be much better tomorrow.”
• Don’t be afraid to ask the person if they are so depressed or sad that they want to hurt themselves (“You seem so upset and discouraged that I’m wondering if you are considering suicide.”).
• Don’t overcommit yourself and, therefore, not be able to deliver on what you promise.
• Don’t ignore your limitations.

Depression

Depression can manifest in a multitude of symptoms, which may include guilt, low self-esteem, and feelings of worthlessness and inadequacy. Physical symptoms include decreased or increased appetite, difficulty sleeping and low interest in daily activities. Depressed students often show low activity levels and have little energy

Do:
• Let the student know you’re aware he or she is feeling down and you would like to help.
• Reach out and encourage the student to express how he or she is feeling. The student is often reluctant to talk initially, yet attention from others helps the student feel more worthwhile and comfortable opening up.
• Tell the student about your concern for them.

Don’t:
• Don’t say, “Don’t worry,” “Crying won’t help,” or “Everything will be better tomorrow.”
• Don’t be afraid to ask whether the student is suicidal if you think he or she may be.

Anxiety

Dealing with unexpected events and conflicts are primary causes of anxiety. Unknown and unfamiliar situations raise anxiety; high and unreasonable self-expectations also increase anxiety. These students often have trouble making decisions.

Do:
• Let them discuss their feelings. Often, this alone relieves pressure.
• Remain calm and reassure students when appropriate.
• Be clear and explicit.

Don’t:
• Don’t take responsibility for the student’s emotional state.
• Don’t make things more complicated.
• Don’t overwhelm him or her with information or ideas.

Substance Abuse

A variety of substances are available that provide escape from pressing demands. The most abused substance is alcohol. Alcohol and other drug-related accidents remain the greatest cause of preventable death among college students.

Do:
• Share your honest concern and encourage the student to seek help.
• Be alert for signs of alcohol and drug abuse: preoccupation with drugs, periods of memory loss, deteriorating performance in class.
• Get necessary help from Towson University Police in instances of intoxication.

Don’t:
• Don’t ignore the problem.
• Don’t chastise or lecture.
• Don’t in any manner encourage the behavior.

Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are believed to impact 20 percent of college students. Eating disorders include anorexia and bulimia. Anorexia involves restricting one’s eating, often leading to malnourishment. Bulimia usually entails binge eating followed by excessive exercise, vomiting or the use of the medication such as diet pills. Eating disorders are widely considered to be the most dangerous mental health issues due to a high mortality rate.
The presence of an eating disorder in a student’s life not only impacts his or her body image and food intake but can also affect a student’s social and academic functioning. Students may struggle with attention and concentration issues, depressive symptoms, physical pain, low energy, social isolation and low self-esteem.

Do:
• Recognize the danger associated with eating disorder behaviors rather than viewing them as a choice, lifestyle or an attempt to obtain attention.
• Encourage the student to seek out formal help including counseling and a thorough medical assessment.
• Support the student even if she or he is not currently motivated to obtain help.

Don’t:
• Don’t assume that all thin students have an eating disorder by remembering that these issues impact students of all shapes and sizes.
• Don’t confront a student by stating “I think that you have an eating disorder.” Instead share your concerns with the student by naming the behaviors you’ve witnessed.
• Don’t encourage the client to “just eat” or “stop throwing up.” Recovery from an eating disorder often requires mental health treatment to alter behaviors.

Sexual Misconduct and Assault

Sexual misconduct and assault impact the lives of many college students. Estimates put the rate of attempted and/or completed sexual assaults for college students at 1 in 4. Moreover, these assaults are overwhelmingly committed by someone the student knows. Incidents of sexual assault are very traumatic. The violation of sexual assault can feel intensely humiliating to the victim, making this crime very difficult to talk about. Students who are survivors of sexual assault may have difficulty with concentration or motivation, suffer sleep disturbance, have trouble trusting others, and may feel chronically anxious or afraid. Men as well as women can be victims of sexual assault.

Do:
• Listen to what they are telling you and believe them.
• Help students to understand and consider their options regarding medical and psychological care, as well as legal or judicial proceedings.
• Encourage them to seek support. Let students know about the free and confidential services at the Counseling Center.
• Students can also seek help from the local sexual assault crisis center, Turnaround, Inc., (410) 377-8111, or other outside resources. Help with an outside referral is available from the Counseling Center (410) 704-2512.
• Report appropriately to TU authorities. Faculty and staff, including some student staff, are required to notify the University Title IX/Deputy Title IX Coordinator of reports of sexual misconduct. If you are made aware of this type of information, you must contact the Title IX Coordinator at (410) 704-0203 or through email at .

Don’t:
• Don’t ask a lot of prying questions, as you may inadvertently send the message that you don’t believe them or that you are questioning how they handled themselves in that situation.
• Don’t blame them for what happened and let them know it was not their fault.
• Don’t be skeptical or show that you don’t believe them. The vast majority of students will not make up stories about being assaulted.
• Don’t try to be this person’s only support, recovery takes a long time and often involves the need for professional services.
• Don’t promise confidentiality, due to your reporting obligations to the University and to the possible need to get assistance from qualified others.

Academic Concerns

There are many reasons why a student may be struggling academically. Students may be preoccupied with situational and family problems, or have emotional problems that are distracting and disabling. They may have learning disabilities, Attention Deficit Disorder or substance abuse problems. Previous failures for any reason can engender a hopeless outlook and a defensive attitude of “I don’t care”.

Do:
• Inquire compassionately as to what the problems are.
• Provide enough time for the student to open up. His or her initial defensiveness might be off-putting to an instructor who values involvement and dedication in students.
• Help the student assess the source of underachievement, e.g., distractions, preoccupations, emotional problems, depression, difficulties with underlying academic and study skills.
• Empathically address the difficulty of dealing with a failure mentality.

Don’t:
• Don’t take the student’s problem personally or be insulted that they do not find the class engaging.
• Don’t assume too quickly the problem is mere laziness.
• Don’t punish the student for lack of involvement.
• Don’t dismiss the student and problem as unworkable in one meeting.

 

Division of Student Affairs 

Admin Building, Suite 237
Hours: Monday - Friday, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Phone: 410-704-2055
Fax: 410-704-3441
E-mail: studentaffairs@towson.edu