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Approaching Students Who May Be Experiencing Emotional or Personal Difficulties

Guidelines for Marymount University Faculty and Staff
(Adapted from “A Response Team Guide to Eating Disorders and Body Image Concerns,” George Mason University Eating Disorders and Body Image Task Force, September 2003)

1. Invite the student to speak with you privately. State the facts and/or behaviors you have observed. For example:
 
  • “I notice that you seem to have trouble staying focused in class.”
  • “I notice that you don’t seem as excited about your school work these days.”
  • “I’m concerned about you because you’ve missed several classes.”
 
Try to use “I” statements as much as possible, which may help the student not feel accused or blamed.

2. Gently ask if the student needs help:
“I am concerned about your well-being. Do you think it might help for you to talk with someone? If so, I am willing to help you get in touch with someone who might be able to help.”

3. Refer the student to the Counseling Center:
“Did you know that Marymount has a Counseling Center? The services are confidential and free of charge. I can give you the phone number, or we can call the Counseling Center (or walk over to the Counseling Center) together, if you’d like.”

4. Be prepared for the student to choose not to get help right away.
Don’t force the issue, but remain open and available to the student. Feel free to set limits and boundaries—do not overextend yourself.

5. If you feel concerned about a student’s safety and/or well-being, the Counseling Center staff is available to consult with you at any point in the process.
Please consult with us if you are concerned about a student, or if you would like guidance regarding how to approach students about sensitive issues.

Facts About Counseling Services at Marymount
 
 
  • The Counseling Center is staffed by licensed mental health professionals (psychologists, social workers, and counselors).
  • Counseling services are free of charge to all MU students (full-time and part-time; undergraduate and graduate; residential and commuter).
  • A psychiatrist is available to conduct medication evaluations (psychiatric services are available to residential students and student athletes only).
  • Use of counseling services is completely confidential; information will not be shared with anyone outside the Counseling Center without written permission from the student. Exceptions to confidentiality include threats to the physical safety of others.
  • Counseling Center records are completely separate from students’ academic records, and cannot be released to third parties with written permission from the student.
 
The Counseling Center is located in Berg Hall, First Floor (next to Health Services).

Counseling Center staff can be reached at (703) 526-6861.

When is it Appropriate to Refer Students to the Counseling Center?

When the student discloses personal issues:
 
  • Family problems
  • Relationship issues
  • Adjustment concerns
  • Sudden or traumatic loss
  • Health problems
  • Sexual assault or trauma
 
When the student discloses changes in mood, functioning, or coping skills:
 
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Difficulty focusing, concentrating, or making decisions
  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Panic attacks
  • Excessive worrying
  • Test-taking or performance anxiety
  • Feelings of helplessness or hopelessness
  • Pervasive sadness
  • Feelings of worthlessness or self-blame
  • Increased anger or irritability
  • Decreased interest in pleasurable activities
 
When you observe changes in the student’s appearance or behavior:
 
  • Failure to complete assignments or attend classes
  • Appearing withdrawn, irritable, fatigued, “out of it”
  • Changes in physical appearance (poor hygiene/grooming, changes in weight)
  • Evidence of self-harm (e.g., cuts or burns on the body)
  • Talking to oneself, hearing voices
  • Expressing firmly held beliefs that are bizarre, paranoid, illogical, and so forth
  • Evidence of substance abuse
 
When the student reports emergencies or crisis situations:
 
  • Suicidal feelings, thoughts, plans, or activities
  • Homicidal feelings, thoughts, plans, or activities
  • Recent physical or sexual assault
  • Domestic violence
 
The Counseling Center is located in Berg Hall, First Floor (next to the Health Center).

Counseling Center staff can be reached at (703) 526-6861.