If you think a student is in distress, here are some steps to take:
- It's okay to ask
Provided you are coming from a place of concern, you are likely to get a good response; remember it is better to be embarrassed about the asking or about the response than be remorseful about not having asked.
- Pick a good place and time to have the conversation
If you are going to have a conversation, choose to do so when and where the barriers to openings up are fewest. Seek a quiet, private moment to talk to the student. If the student appears very agitated of if there is a safety concern, it is best to ask a colleague to be present when you meet with the student.
- Say what you see
Talk to the student about what you have seen and express concern: "I've noticed that you seem to be less interested in eating these days; is everything okay?" Don't work on the basis of assumptions about the student's behaviour or feelings.
- Be prepared for the possibility of denial of difficulty
Students, like the rest of us, are not always ready to talk about their concerns. If this happens, it means "not now". Respect that.
- Trust your instincts
Even if a student denies that there is a difficulty, keep on trusting yourself. You might say "Okay, please know that I am concerned about the way that you seem these days". Let them know that you are concerned and that you want to be of support.
- "Keep the door open"
If at all possible, the student should leave the interaction feeling it is safe to approach you again in the future.
- Remember your resources
If you are uncomfortable or uncertain after your interaction with a student, remember there are resources on campus that you can call on. In situations like these please call the Counselling Service at extension 78264, and ask to speak to the Director, Mary Acreman, the Cross-Cultural Advisor, Dr. Arunima Khanna, or the Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Chuck Vetere.