• Faculty and Staff

    As members of The New School community, we each have a role in ensuring that a struggling student receives appropriate support and treatment. Working together, we can optimize a student’s potential to succeed, whether they are facing a momentary hurdle or a chronic and serious mental illness. Continued collaboration is an important aspect of being proactive, responsive, and prepared for the unexpected.

    Confidentiality

    Medical and mental health providers are bound by strict professional and legal standards to preserve confidentiality. Other staff and faculty are not bound by the same obligations. All New School employees are required by university policy to report concerns about a student’s health and safety and are bound by law to disclose information when they have reason to believe that someone is in danger. Once a student has divulged a serious concern to a member of the New School community, the university has officially been “put on warning.” Faculty or staff members who are asked by students for a promise of confidentiality or understand that students have in some way communicated the expectation that conversations will be treated confidentially should be informed that you will keep the information as private as possible but may be obliged to share concerns with appropriate university staff. If the student only wants talk to someone confidentially, put them in touch with Counseling Services.

    Situations or behaviors that warrant disclosure include but are not limited to

    • Disappearance from campus
    • Unsafe living situations
    • Intimate partner/domestic violence
    • Stalking
    • Sexual harassment
    • Violence committed by a student
    • Sexual violence directed at a student
    • Disturbing content in written or artistic work
    • Threats or displays of extreme anger
    • Abuse of drugs or alcohol
    • Evidence of self-injury
    • Disclosure of suicidal thoughts or suicidal comments

    If you are unsure whether or not you should disclose a concern about a student, consult with a Counseling Services or SSCM staff member.

    Recognizing Signs of Distress

    A student in distress will usually exhibit warning signs. The lists below should not be considered comprehensive but rather representative of more common and recognizable signs that a student may be strugglings:

  • Academic Indicators

    • Repeated absences or tardiness
    • Disruptive behavior that does not respond to classroom management
    • Emotional responses that are exaggerated or inappropriate to the situation or stimulus
    • Recurring requests for special provisions (e.g., extensions on papers and exams)
    • Patterns of perfectionism (e.g., indications that grades “other than A will not do”)
    • Disturbing written or artistic expression that exposes unusual violence, morbidity, social isolation, despair, confusion, or focus on suicide or death
    • Incoherent or extremely disorganized written work or verbal presentation
    • Deterioration in quality or quantity of work, including failing to hand in assignments.

    Behavioral and Emotional Indicators

    • Statements indicating distress, family problems, financial problems, social problems, or loss
    • Outbursts of anger, hostility, yelling, or aggressive comments
    • Pattern of being unusually or chronically withdrawn
    • Expressions of hopelessness or worthlessness
    • Episodes or signs of crying or tearfulness
    • Displays of severe anxiety or recurring irritability
    • Demands or displays of dependent behavior
    • Signs of depressed or lethargic mood
    • Hyperactivity or very rapid speech
    • Inappropriate behavior, including emotional outbursts, incomprehensible or erratic speech, continual daydreaming or inability to concentrate, uncontrollable giggling, chronically provocative behavior, compulsive intrusiveness, social or emotional withdrawal, extreme mood changes
    • Signs or expressions of concern from a peer, friend, classmate, roommate, or teaching colleague

    Physical Indicators

    • Deterioration or dramatic change in physical appearance or personal hygiene
    • Excessive fatigue; falling asleep in class chronically
    • Noticeable cuts, bruises, or burns
    • Frequent or constant illness or physical complaints
    • Unusual inability to make eye contact
    • Dramatic weight loss or gain
    • Signs of drug or alcohol abuse (e.g., nodding off, disoriented responses, change in speech pattern, smell of alcohol)

  • Responding to Students in Distress

    A single indicator may simply mean that a student is having an “off” day. However, even one serious sign (e.g., a student writes a paper expressing hopelessness or thoughts of suicide) or a cluster of smaller signs (e.g., emotional outbursts, repeated absences, and noticeable cuts on the arm) requires action. Expressing your concern directly to the student is generally the best first step. Familiarize yourself with the resources available to the student, point out specific behaviors you have observed in a nonjudgmental manner, and be prepared to make a referral or directly connect the student with the appropriate support resource.

  • Be an Active Listener

    • Listen attentively and encourage the student to talk (“Tell me more about that…”) 
    • Ask open-ended, nonjudgmental questions that deal directly with the issues (“What problems has that situation caused you?”)
    • Communicate understanding by paraphrasing what the student has said, both content and feeling (“It sounds like you’re not accustomed to such a big city and are feeling lost”)
    • Ask the student what he or she thinks would help
    • Empathize with the feelings being expressed and consider the student’s perspective
    • Help the student identify options and understand that things will not always seem hopeless or be so difficult

    Know The Limits of Your Role

    • Do not take on the role of counselor
    • Listen, care, and offer resources
    • Maintain the professional nature of the relationship
    • Be clear and consistent with the message of support and the scope of help
    • Maintain consistent expectations of appropriate student behavior, especially of academic performance
    • Avoid making promises of confidentiality

    Make a Referral

    • Normalize the need to ask for help, convey a spirit of hopefulness, and inform the student that troubling situations can and do get better
    • Suggest resources: friends, family, clergy, or campus professional help
    • Share information about the suggested resource and the potential benefit (“I know the people in that office, and they are really good at helping students work through these kinds of situations”)
    • Focus on one resource that seems particularly relevant
    • Alert the appropriate office or administrator as soon as the referral has been made to help ensure prompt assistance
    • Suggest that reluctant students try using a resource before dismissing it
    • Offer to make the referral phone call for the student
    • Walk the student over to the referral, if needed or desired
    • End the conversation in a way that keeps open the lines of communication and invite further discussion and follow up

  • Reporting a Concern to SSCM

    There are three ways to report a concern about a student to SSCM:

    • Email studentsupport@newschool.edu, to which only SSCM staff have access.
    • Create a report in Starfish, the Student Success Network.
    • Call 212.229.5900 x3701.

    In all three cases, focus on observable behaviors (e.g., “student cried throughout the class meeting”), provide specifics (e.g., cite how often the particular behavior is observable), and take care to avoid labels or pejoratives (e.g., don’t describe someone as “crazy”). Remember that students have the right to review these written records, so if you prefer not to put your concerns in writing, call SSCM at 212.229.5900 x3701.

    When to Seek Immediate Help

    Contemplating calling 911 is a good sign that immediate help may be needed. It is generally best to err on the side of safety and make the call.

  • CALL 911 if you observe

    • Uncontrollable, violent, and/or homicidal or suicidal behavior
    • Seizures (convulsions)
    • Labored or painful breathing
    • Deep wounds or other clear indications of severe physical injury (including self-injury)
    • Unconsciousness or complaint about losing consciousness, sight, hearing, or other life functions
    • Hearing or seeing things (hallucinations), extreme dizziness, intense pain, or strange sensations
    • Inability to speak, walk, or otherwise communicate
    • Signs of a dangerous level of intoxication (Never assume that an intoxicated student has given accurate information about the nature or quantity of what has been ingested)
    • Complaining about possible life-threatening symptoms or requesting emergency services

    Potential Warning Signs of Suicide

    • Student announces intention to kill themself
    • Student talks or writes about suicide or death in a way that seems ominous and personal
    • Student sends cryptic or indirect messages of suicide ideation (“I wish
I were dead”; “You’ll be better off without me”; “Soon
you won’t have to worry about me”; “Time is running out”)
    • Student expresses intense, persistent feelings that life is meaningless
    • Student gives away prized possessions without explanation
    • Student otherwise describes or exhibits feelings of desperation or severe psychological pain
    • Student obtains a weapon or other articles that could be used to inflict self harm

  • Training Request

    SSCM provides workshops developed to support employees who become aware of and want to help students who are struggling. Trainings are also designed to familiarize university staff and faculty with The New School’s comprehensive network of resources available to students facing difficult situations.

    SSCM can customize workshops according to the needs of individual departments, but topics typically include

    • Identifying and responding to students in distress
    • Accessing campus resources
    • Understanding university emergency protocols

    To request a workshop, contact studentsupport@newschool.edu

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