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Responding to Students in Emotional Distress

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A Guide for Faculty

Student Life Committee of the Faculty Senate
Division of Student Affairs

This guide has been jointly developed for faculty by the Division of Student Affairs and the Student Life Committee of the Faculty Senate. This brochure is meant to assist faculty when one of their students exhibits signs of emotional distress or a mental health problem.

Faculty are often the first to recognize that a student is not functioning well academically or emotionally. It can be difficult to know how best to respond. A brief consultation with a professional staff member at Fordham’s Counseling Center (CPS) or the dean of students can help you sort out the relevant issues, explore your options and identify other resources on campus. Together, we can create an effective safety net for our students.

Faculty are often concerned that disclosing students’ personal information to counselors or deans constitutes a breach of confidentiality. According to Fordham University’s Office of Legal Counsel, this is not true.

"It is both morally sound and legally prudent for faculty who recognize a student is in emotional distress to offer the student some form of assistance that relates to their authority as educators concerned about their students' physical and emotional well-being. Accordingly, faculty, even those with specialized training in relevant fields, should make prompt referrals to the dean of students if they suspect a student is in emotional distress or threatening harm to him/herself or others."

This guide provides basic information about risk factors and symptoms associated with emotional distress, tips on how to approach students and resources available on campus. Please note that a guide can only mention a limited number of important items. Therefore, it is important to ‘trust your gut’ and seek consultation if you suspect that a student is struggling emotionally. In non-emergencies, you may contact the Counseling Center or dean of students. For information about mental health services available on campus, please call Fordham’s Counseling Center (CPS) and ask to speak with a staff psychologist, or visit the CPS website at www.fordham.edu/counseling. At Fordham, help is just a phone call away 24 hours a day.