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How to Help a Distressed Student

What is Consultation?

A consultation is an opportunity to talk with a Counseling Center clinician about your concerns regarding a JMU student in distress. It could also involve unusual, problematic, or potentially harmful behaviors that could impact the JMU community. The consultation conversation can occur over the phone or in-person at the Counseling Center. Since counselors are not normally the first people students turn to when they have problems, you are probably in a great position to provide helpful information.

During the consultation, you will speak with a clinician about your concerns. They will ask you a variety of questions to make sure they understand the situation. The clinician will also assist you in developing a plan to effectively deal with the situation. If the situation requires additional assistance from a campus or community professional, we will support you through that process.

Possible Consultation Recommendations:

Please refer to our Consultation form for more information about how the information you provide will be used.

Signs that A Student is in Distress

  • Changes in personality - noticeably sad, angry, irritable, anxious, or apathetic which lasts for more than a few days.
  • They start skipping classes, failing assignments, or not completing their work.
  • Recent significant loss - relationship, friendship, death of an important person, a traumatic event.
  • Withdrawal from others - friends, family, classes, and abandoning previously enjoyed activities.
  • Express helplessness and hopelessness - they struggle seeing things getting better. When students lose hope, they are much less motivated to put forth an effort to change and they may have thoughts of suicide.
  • Changes in eating and sleeping patterns. Sustained periods of significant changes in eating habits or insomnia can have serious consequences.
  • Abuse of alcohol and/or drugs, especially when it leads to antagonistic, impulsive, reckless and/or violent behavior.
  • Appearing disoriented or "out of it" (e.g., less aware of what is going on around them, more forgetful, rambling or disconnected speech, and/or behavior that seems out of context or bizarre).
  • Talking about committing suicide (ranging from vague statements like "Everyone would be better off without me" and "It won't matter soon" to direct and clear statements like "I'm going to kill myself"). Most people who contemplate suicide give some warning of their intentions to someone close to them.
  • Talking about harming others (e.g., verbal threats, threatening emails, harassing or stalking behaviors, papers/exams that contain violent material). All such statements and actions must be taken seriously.

There are several helpful things to keep in mind as you try to assist a student in distress.

Helpful Resources

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