Faculty and staff at SUNY Fredonia are involved in students' lives through a number of important roles that may include being an educator, advisor, mentor, and counselor. Faculty and staff are in a unique position to directly observe students on a regular basis and notice emotional, social, or behavioral troubles or concerns.
Often times, faculty/staff contact or refer students to the SUNY Fredonia Counseling Center (SFCC) based on written assignments or conversations in which a student shares emotional experiences or traumatic events. Students receiving counseling at the SFCC often say that such services enable them to better cope with the difficulties they face, and to remain in school and maximize their college experience.
If you are a member of the faculty or staff, you should know that your intervention in assisting students to seek psychological services is significant to a student's career and retention at SUNY Fredonia.
What To Watch Out For
The following is a list of indicators that may signify that a student is struggling in some way, and may need a referral to the SFCC:
- Recent Crisis
- Talk of Suicide
- Social Withdrawal
- Drop in Academic Grades/Performance
- Negative Changes in Physical Appearance
- Psychosomatic Complaints
- Bizarre Behavior
- Illogical/Unusual Thoughts
- Increased Irritability
- Alcohol or Other Substance Abuse
What To Do
If you are concerned about a student, you may contact the SFCC at (716) 673-3424 for a consultation, or you may refer the student to the SFCC directly: how to refer students.
The SFCC provides a 24-hour emergency service to the College. If a crisis arises during working hours, contact the SFCC directly. Outside of regularly scheduled working hours please contact University Police (673-3333). If your emergency requires medical attention, University Police should be notified immediately.
Based on faculty responses to our recent needs assessment survey we are providing suggestions for dealing with students whose academic performance is affected by traumatic events or other mental health concerns. The amount of flexibility and assistance you provide is completely at your discretion. It may be in the student’s best interest to be held accountable to the class contract as set out in your syllabus, and we are careful not to lead our clients to expect any particular accommodations.
Counselors will occasionally provide documentation to faculty that a student is seeking services at the SUNY Fredonia Counseling Center. If you have a received this notification, be aware that the counselor has encouraged the student to be in contact with you to discuss his or her academic concerns. The student may request assistance, flexibility or may simply want you to be aware that recent poor performance has not been due to lack of interest or concern.
We suggest you begin by having a frank conversation with the student about his or her current standing in the course. If you feel the student is not going to be successful in your class this semester, please encourage him or her to consider other options as appropriate, such as taking an incomplete, withdrawing from the course or taking a medical leave from school. The Office of Student Affairs, Residence Life, the Financial Aid Office and the Counseling Center can all provide further information and counsel to a student who is considering these options.
If the student is going to attempt to make up missed work and complete the class successfully, you can help him or her make a plan and schedule for doing so. This schedule may help the student organize and complete the work or it may quickly make it clear to the student and to you that the student is not getting back on track and that leaving the course is the student’s best option. Requiring the student to check in with you periodically may be helpful.
Some suggestions for working with students who have recently endured a significant loss or traumatic life event or who are dealing with a serious mental health issue might include such things as:
- Encourage the student to make use of academic support services such as the Learning Center.
- Extend deadlines or allow more time to complete assignments
- Give permission to audiotape lectures
- Extend forgiveness for absences, within reason.
- Give permission to step out of the class and return if experiencing distress.
- Arrange tutoring sessions with a strong current or former student if such sessions are not available through the Learning Center.
- If the student has had to miss class, share your own notes or arrange for your student to get notes from a strong student in the class.
If you find yourself with further questions about how to handle a particular student in such a situation, please feel free to call us at 673-3424. We may not be able to give you more information about the student’s situation, but we will be happy to discuss your options with you and give you further general suggestions for dealing with these situations.
Mental Health Statement for Faculty Syllabi
The SUNY Fredonia Counseling Center regularly receives calls from faculty and staff regarding students who might be experiencing distress. In an effort to be more proactive in minimizing the potential negative outcome of students in distress, the statement below was generated for faculty members to consider including on their syllabi; the statement might also be used to encourage classroom conversations about the stigma that keeps students from getting professional help.
Reducing the stigma about accessing mental health care can lead to a culture on the SUNY Fredonia campus where students seek professional help when it is needed. We invite you to work with us toward reducing the stigma about accessing mental health care so that students are not afraid to seek professional help.
Diminished mental health, including significant stress, mood changes, excessive worry, or problems with eating and/or sleeping can interfere with optimal academic performance. The source of symptoms might be strictly related to your course work; if so, please speak with me. However, problems with relationships, family worries, loss, or a personal struggle or crisis can also contribute to decreased academic performance.
SUNY Fredonia provides a Counseling Center to support the academic success of students. The Counseling Center provides cost-free services to help you manage personal challenges that threaten your well-being. Visit www.fredonia.edu/counseling for more information.
In the event I suspect you need additional support, I will express my concerns and the reasons for them, and remind you of resources (e.g., Counseling Center, Health Center, etc.) that might be helpful to you. It is not my intention to know the details of what might be bothering you, but simply to let you know I am concerned and that help, if needed, is available.
Getting help is a smart and courageous thing to do -- for yourself and for your loved ones.
A Note About Confidentiality
There have been occasions when faculty/staff have referred a student to the SFCC and wanted some type of follow-up contact from the SFCC counselor in order to know that the student actually did come for an appointment. Counselors are bound by legal and ethical guidelines to maintain confidentiality. Thus, faculty and staff should be aware that the SFCC counselors cannot tell anyone that a student is coming for services.
Information can only be released with the written consent of the student, except in situations where a student poses a threat of serious harm to self or to others, or in the case of abuse/neglect of a minor, or in the case of a court-ordered release of information. An attempt will be made by the counseling center staff to get a release signed by the referred student so that notification and coordination of services will be possible.