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Counseling and Psychological Services

Are you concerned about the mental wellbeing of a student? If a student poses an immediate threat to self or others, call 911. To discuss your concern about a WSU student with a psychological counselor, anyone can call WSU Counseling Services at 509-335-4511.

The AWARE Network is a resource for faculty, TAs, and others who are concerned about a student’s well-being, behavior, or health. If you are worried about a student’s academic performance, or behavior in or out of class, you may send an AWARE Network report at You may also contact the Dean of Students directly at 509-335-5757.

Responding to students in distress

As a person who works closely with students, you know first hand the stresses students face balancing school, work, relationships and personal development. You also know that students sometimes become overwhelmed by their life circumstances. Students often come to faculty members for help with these issues, and faculty members may see students’ problems reflected in their behavior or their work.

At Counseling Services we often receive requests from faculty for assistance in responding to students in distress. Although each situation is different, there are some general guidelines that may help you handle these difficult times.

The hallmark indicator of students experiencing trouble is a change in their routine. Generally, the suddenness, extent, and amount of change reflects the severity of the difficulty. Specific behavioral changes that may be of concern and may merit a referral to Counseling Services include:

  • Assignments not being turned in
  • Numerous absences
  • Reduced participation
  • Uncooperative or conflicted interactions
  • Behaviors that attract attention (e.g., disruptiveness, fidgetiness, sleeping in class)
  • Requesting extensions and being uncomfortable when asked for a reason
  • Disregarding class rules
  • Excessive emotional content in discussing or writing course material
  • Severe communication difficulties
  • Mention of suicide or homicide in the content of coursework.

General suggestions for responding to students in distress

  • Talk with the student in private. Allow enough time to attend to the student’s concerns.
  • Listen to and understand the student’s concerns before giving an opinion or advice.
  • If the issue is a student’s conduct in class, use non-judgmental descriptions of the behavior you observed. Let the student know what concerns you and what your expectations are about classroom conduct.
  • Ask the student what he or she expects from you and be clear about what you are and are not willing to do in the situation.
  • Help the student identify options for action and explore the probable consequences.
  • If a student appears to be in imminent danger of hurting self or others, consult WSU Counseling Services or the police immediately. Do not promise to keep threats to self or others secret.

Referring students to other resources

When to refer:

  • When you feel uncomfortable dealing with a situation personally.
  • When your involvement would conflict with your role as a teacher.
  • When you believe that a situation is beyond your capacity to help or that the student’s problems can best be handled by another agency or person.

How to refer:

  • Before you refer, let the student know you care about his or her concerns and are referring because you want to be of help.
  • When referring to Counseling Services, suggest it as a possible resource rather than telling a student to go because he or she “needs help” or is “causing problems” for others.
  • With students who are reluctant to use Counseling Services, it may help to inform them that counselors are a confidential resource and are available to them for dealing with many different kinds of problems.
  • Depending upon circumstances, you may wish to obtain the student’s permission to call and make a direct referral; in severe situations, you can offer to walk the student to Counseling Services to be seen immediately.
  • If there is imminent danger to the student or to others, take an active role in getting immediate help for the student.

This information and additional details on how to refer a student can be found in this brochure: Responding To Students In Distress