Information for Faculty and Staff

Welcome to the Student Counseling website. This page is intended to provide information that may be helpful to you in your role as faculty and staff at Upstate Medical University.

How do I refer a student for counseling?

If you are concerned about a student and wish to refer him/her for counseling, please urge the student to contact Student Counseling to schedule an appointment. The student can confidenitally call 464-3120. Please note that no one but the student can schedule an appointment for that student. If you wish, you may contact Student Counseling to notify us that you have referred a student for services.

I'm concerned about a student but don't know if a referral is needed. What can I do?

Drs. Vanderhoff and Miller, Co-Directors of the Student Counseling Service, are available at 464-3120 to talk with faculty and staff about their concerns about students. Referrals are appropriate when…

  • The student’s academic functioning appears impaired by the problem
  • The problem is serious or is more serious than you feel comfortable handling (e.g., a student expresses suicidal thoughts)
  • You have talked with the student but feel additional assistance is indicated
  • The student is not willing to talk with you about a problem
  • You are not sure if your teacher-student relationship may affect your ability to handle the problem
  • The student requests information or help that you are unable to provide
  • You are feeling burned out by a student repeatedly seeking your help

What are signs of student distress?

There are many potential signs of student distress that may indicate a student is having difficulty. Social withdrawal, declining academic performance, significant difficulty concentrating, changes in hygiene, disjointed thoughts, jumbled speech, chronic irritability, frequent tearfulness, lack of participation, irrationality, and threatening statements (e.g., I don't care anymore, I just feel like I can’t go on and don't want to) all are signs that may indicate that the student is in significant distress.

What do I say to a troubled student?

We recommend that you set up a time to meet with individually with the student. Avoid discussing your concerns in front of the student’s peers, as this can lead to feelings of humiliation and increased defensiveness in the student.

In that meeting, be specific when stating your concerns, listen carefully, exude a caring style, and avoid any statements that may sound judgmental or dismissive. You may find that your contact alone is all the student needs to address the concerns you have; however, if you feel your contact with the student had limited effect and/or you sense the student needs more help, do not hesitate to contact Student Counseling. If you suspect a student may be suicidal, it is imperative to ask gently but directly whether the student is thinking of killing or harming him/herself. If the student reports plans for suicide or self-harm, immediate contact with Public Safety is warranted.

What if I feel uncomfortable referring a student for mental health care?

If referring a student to Student Counseling is awkward for you, it may help to talk with SCS staff about the matter. Approaching the student from a collaborative/problem-solving perspective (e.g., I've noticed that you’re having some difficulty and I am wondering what you might think about seeing the Student Counselor), rather than bluntly telling the student to get help, will likely reduce your own discomfort, as well as the student’s.

What if a student is reluctant to seek help?

Often students are afraid to get help. We recommend that you ask about such fears if you decide to make a referral. Simply acknowledging and normalizing the student’s fears may alleviate them. Students may feel that their need for assistance is an indication of personal failure. In this case, remind your student that facing one’s problems is a sign of strength, rather than weakness, and that even the most successful students and physicians have needed help at times.

Students sometimes have concerns about the confidentiality of services. It is imperative to inform students that services offered through Student Counseling are absolutely confidential and that no one on or off-campus will be informed of their participation in the service.

Cost is often another concern. If this is the case, remind the student that services through Student Counseling are free. Sometimes students think they have to be in crisis or have very serious problems in order to seek help. Remind students that services are available to all students for all types of problems.

What if a student refuses help?

Some students could benefit from help but resist making an appointment. It is important for you to remember that you can care about the well-being of your students, but cannot force them get help. If you encounter an actively suicidal student who is resistant to seeking help, you should immediately contact Public Safety or, if off-campus, dial 911. In cases where a student is acting in a very unusual, worrisome, or disruptive manner, you may wish to contact Public Safety, the Dean's office, or the Student Risk Evaluation Committee (Dr. Simmons, Chair, 464-4260).

A few words about confidentiality...

Faculty and staff may consult with Student Counseling about their concerns about students; however, information about students who receive care at Student Counseling cannot be released to faculty or staff unless the student provides written permission to release information.

Thank you for helping us to better serve our students.