• Faculty Resources

  • Students with Mental Health Concerns:
    A Guide for Faculty and Staff


    Being in college can be stressful.  For the traditional-age undergraduate, it is a time of adjusting to academic demands, making preliminary career decisions, separating from one’s family, establishing a sense of identity, making choices about ethics and values, and learning about sexuality and intimate relationships.  For the graduate student or older undergraduate student, there are other developmental challenges and demands.  Juggling multiple roles –student, spouse, parent, and employee– can be difficult.  Being uprooted from one’s home community, and yet not fully integrated into the university community, can also be problematic.  Academic pressures, financial problems, and adjustment to being in a the role of learner when one is an accomplished adult in other spheres can further add to the strain.  Along with the support of family and friends, positive relationships within the campus community can serve as buffers against these varied sources of stress.  

    Click the links below to learn more:

    The Faculty
    Signs of Distress
    Anticipating Distress
    When to Refer
    How to Refer
    Other Sources
    Counseling & Health Services
    Counseling & Health Services Office

    The Faculty

    Faculty are often the "first line" of assistance to students.

    Due to the frequency and unique nature of their interactions with students, faculty members are in the most direct position to observe students and be aware of their needs.  Moreover, faculty members are often perceived by students as the first point of contact in obtaining advice and support.  Faculty at Hamline may consult with members of the Counseling & Health Services staff regarding concerns about a specific student, evaluating the significance of particular behaviors, and/or procedures for referring students to counseling.  This brief referral guide is designed to answer questions and offer suggestions related to those issues.

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    As a faculty member, you may find yourself a position where you believe that psychological assistance would be helpful to the student.  Consider the following tips:

    1. Involve yourself to the extent that you feel comfortable.  If you begin to feel overwhelmed by the student’s difficulties, consult or involve others who can help.

    2. Feel free to contact Counseling & Health Services at 523-2204 for consultation or assistance.

    3. If you have a concern, the first step may be to speak directly to the student in a straightforward and nonjudgmental manner.  Indicate behaviors you have observed that concern you, but avoid labels or diagnoses.  It is important to recognize that the student may not share your perceptions of the problem.

    4. Listen carefully to the student’s concerns and help the student to express his or her feelings.  Avoid attempting to talk the student out of these feelings.  Students who are troubled usually want someone who will listen and seek to understand prior to engaging in a problem-solving process.

    5. If problem-solving seems appropriate, help the student brainstorm possible solutions.

    6. If appropriate, help the student decide some concrete "next steps" toward addressing the problem.

    7. If appropriate, refer to Counseling & Health Services.

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    Signs of Distress

    An awareness of some of the more common indicators of psychological distress can be helpful in making a decision about referring a student for counseling.  (To prevent over-interpretation of a single, isolated behavior, it is generally more useful to look for clusters.)


    An individual dealing with depression may manifest one or more of the following:

    • Sadness

    • Hopelessness

    • Apathy

    • Low energy

    • Difficulty concentrating

    • Withdrawal from friends

    • Changes in eating, sleeping, hygiene, and academic habits

    • Guilt

    • Substance abuse

    • Self-harming behavior

    Suicidal behavior does not necessarily always accompany clinical depression, but greater risk is indicated by the following:

    • Abuse of drugs or alcohol

    • Previous suicide attempts

    • Thoughts of suicide or preoccupation with death

    • Having a plan for how to commit suicide

    • Possessing the means to commit suicide (e.g., a weapon, pills)

    • Having a friend or family member who committed suicide

    • Giving away prized possessions

    It is helpful to respond by:

    • Reducing stimulation (i.e., talking with the student in a relatively private space, if you feel comfortable doing so)

    • Allowing the student to ventilate feelings

    • Talking openly about suicide if that is on the student’s mind -- there is no danger in asking, “Are you thinking about killing yourself?”

    • Referring the student to Counseling & Health Services -- if you think the student is suicidal, do not try to handle the situation alone


    An individual dealing with anxiety may manifest one or more of the following:

    • Worry, fear, dread, or a sense of impending doom

    • Edginess, distractibility, difficulty concentrating

    • Rapid speech, or other signs of agitation

    • Panicky feelings or panic attacks

    • Insomnia

    • Physiological signs, such as shortness of breath, sweating, trembling, or digestive problems

    • Phobia (irrational fear of an object, activity or situation)

    • Obsessive thoughts (recurring, persistent ideas that the student cannot ignore)

    • Compulsive, ritualistic behaviors (i.e., repetitive behavior performed in a stereotypical fashion, which the student cannot seem to control)

    It is useful to respond by:

    • Helping the student to physically relax

    • Talking slowly and calmly to the student

    • Encouraging the student to discuss his or her feelings

    • Helping the student to identify sources of stress, and referring the student for professional help

    Eating Disorders

    Disordered eating may be characterized by:

    • Bingeing, vomiting, or abusing laxatives

    • Bizarre or ritualistic eating behaviors

    • Compulsive or excessive exercising

    • Obsession with weight 

    • Distorted perceptions of appearance 

    • Significant weight loss or weight gain

    • Wearing baggy clothes to conceal one’s weight loss


    Substance Abuse 

    Substance abuse problems may be reflected in:

    • Binges or benders
    • Drinking or using drugs alone

    • Minimization of chemical use

    • Blackouts

    • Anti-social behavior such as vandalism

    • Difficulty concentrating

    • Poor class attendance

    • Poor academic performance

    • Isolation

    • Apathy

    • Depression

    Other Signs of Distress

    • Sudden changes in academic performance

    • Withdrawal from typical social interactions

    • Marked seclusion and unwillingness to communicate

    • Persistent lying, stealing, or other anti-social acts

    • Shyness or significant social skills deficits 

    • Inability to sleep or excessive sleeping

    • Loss of appetite or excessive appetite

    • Unexplained crying or outbursts of anger

    • Acutely increased activity (e.g., ceaseless talking or extreme restlessness)

    • Unusual irritability

    • Suspiciousness, irrational feelings of persecution or expressions of fear

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    Anticipating Distress

    In addition to the student's behaviors and feelings, it is helpful to be alert to specific events which can trigger emotional difficulty.  Although psychological distress may appear at any time, there are some common precipitating events.  These events can include:

    • Periods of heavy academic workload 

    • Serious illness, or the death of a family member or friend

    • Separation, divorce, or remarriage of parents

    • Housing relocation

    • Breakup of a romantic relationship

    • Serious financial problems

    • Anticipation of returning home for vacation or summer

    You may wish to extend yourself to students who have experienced major changes in their lives, to inquire about how they are doing, and to offer a listening ear.

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    When to Refer

    Aside from the signs or symptoms that may suggest the appropriateness of counseling, there are other guidelines which can help you define the limits of your involvement with a particular student's problem.  A referral is usually indicated when:

    • The student makes a direct request for help finding a counselor;
    • The student discusses the how, where, or when of a suicide plan;
    • The student presents a problem or requests information that is outside your range of knowledge;
    • Personality differences between you and the student interfere with your ability to help;
    • You are too close to the student to be objective;
    • The student is reluctant to discuss the problem with you;
    • You do not believe your attempt to help the student has been effective.

    In the case of an actual suicide attempt or other serious crisis, you should call 911 and/or Safety & Security at (651) 523-2100.

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    How To Refer

    When you have decided that a student might benefit from professional counseling, speak directly to the student in a straightforward, matter-of-fact fashion, showing concern.  It is counterproductive to try to deceive a student into getting help.  Make it clear that this recommendation represents your best judgment based on your observations of the student's behavior.  Be specific regarding the behaviors that have raised your concern, and avoid making generalizations or attributions to the individual's personality or character.  With most students, this will be the most persuasive and effective approach you can take.

    Except in emergencies, the option must be left open for the student to accept or refuse counseling.  If the student is skeptical or reluctant for whatever reason, simply express your acceptance of his or her feelings (so that he or she feels free to reject the referral without rejecting you).  Give the student room to consider alternatives by offering to talk later.  If he or she emphatically says, "No," then respect their decision and again leave the conversation open.  If you push the issue too far by insisting, prodding, or appearing as an authoritarian parent, you may close the door to future communication.  Unless it is a matter of clear urgency, go slowly.  Finally, feel free to consult with Counseling & Health Services regarding the best way to approach a referral.

    Students who are ready to make a counseling appointment may call Counseling & Health Services at (651) 523-2204, or may come to the office in Manor Basement Room 16 to schedule in person.  (Office hours are Monday through Friday 8:00am to 5:00pm; please note, however, that we are closed during the noon hour.)  Faculty may accompany a student over to Counseling & Health Services to schedule an appointment, but please make sure that this is in accordance with the student's wishes before insisting.  If you do accompany the student, you can also inquire whether he or she wishes you to help provide information to the counselor about the nature of the problem, or whether a "drop-off" at the office will be sufficient.  Finally, you are encouraged to follow up with the student at a later date to show your continued interest.  (Due to confidentiality, Counseling & Health Services will not be able to release information to you without signed permission from the student.)

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    It is important for faculty to understand that counseling sessions with students are confidential, and information cannot be released except by a student's written request.  Counseling & Health Services adheres to this policy very strictly.  If you are interested in a student's contact with the Center, information can best be obtained directly from the student.  However, we will be pleased to consult with you regarding your concerns.

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    Other Sources

    Some students may be reluctant to use the professional counseling service on campus.  For these individuals, the Counseling & Health Services office can also provide assistance with referrals to professionals in the local community.

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    Some guidelines for responding:
    • Assess the situation and reduce environmental stimulation
    • Communicate calmly, but firmly, and set appropriate limits 
    • Listen and acknowledge the student's feelings, but offer alternatives to inappropriate behaviors
    • Seek professional consultation.  During Hamline business hours, you can call Counseling & Health Services (523-2204) or the Dean of Students Office (523-2421) for assistance.  For emergencies after regular working hours, contact Safety & Security (651) 523-2100.

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    Counseling & Health Services

    Counseling & Health Services at Hamline University is a support and educational service for the entire campus community.  The Center is staffed by professional counselors.

    The mission of the Center is based on the premise that the college experience is one of personal development as well as intellectual discovery. The Center's function is to help students define and accomplish personal and academic goals and to help them cope with personal difficulties which might hinder their academic progress.  Our emphasis is on promoting psychological and emotional development.

    Students use the center to discuss a broad range of concerns including anxiety, depression, relationships, procrastination, personal identity, adjustment, and conflict.  It is important to recognize that help and assistance are not narrowly limited to concerns with "serious" mental health issues.  

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    Counseling & Health Services Office

    Located in Manor Basement Room 16
    Hours: 8:00am – 12:00pm and 1:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.,
    Monday through Friday

    Services include:

    • Individual, couples, and group counseling

    • Workshops, consultation, and other preventive/educational services

    • Referrals to community resources, particularly where intensive and ongoing therapy is needed

    To make a counseling appointment, call (651) 523-2204.

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  • Hamline News


    Alumus Roger Appeldorn ’57, in collaboration with Hamline professors, developed a new innovation course open to Hamline students across all majors. The course will teach students important skills that they can apply to help them succeed in their disciplines.


    The Hedgeman Center for Student Diversity and Programs is hosting the first event in the This is My Story series is on Thursday, October 5 in Giddens Learning Center room 100E.

    Hamline University and Hamline political science professor David Schultz, noted expert on elections, politics, and public policy, have announced the selection of Brooklyn Park, Minnesota as the next Minnesota city which will host a unique new effort called Community Assemblies.