• Helping Students in Distress

    If someone you know may be experiencing mental health issues, the Wellness Center is here to help. Start with our referral guide, and be sure to review and download the PDF so you're ready if and when you need it.

    For more details on when to approach and refer a student, look to our four-step referral process below. If you're still unsure if it's appropriate to make a referral, call the Wellness Center hotline at ext. 4444 to share your observations and concerns with a counselor.

    If a student is a danger to themselves or others, contact Public Safety at ext. 5555 or call 911.

  • Four-Step Referral Process

    This process will help you identify and respond to students who are in distress, who are disruptive in class and other spaces on campus, or who may be at risk of harming themselves or others.

    Particular language and behaviors may signal that a student is experiencing personal, social or psychological distress. Here are the warning signs:

    Academic Issues
    • Marked changes in academic performance or behavior
    • Uncharacteristically poor performance and preparation
    • Excessive absences or tardiness
    • Repeated requests for special consideration
    • Avoiding or dominating discussions
    • Excessively anxious when called upon
    • Disruptive behavior in class or other spaces on campus
    • Intense emotion or inappropriate responses

    Personal Behavior or Interpersonal Problems
    • Asking instructors for help with personal problems
    • Complaints from other students
    • Hyperactivity or very rapid speech
    • Tearfulness
    • Irritability or angry outbursts
    • Issues with roommate or family
    • Isolation from friends or family
    • Change in personal hygiene or dress
    • Dramatic weight loss or gain
    • Disjointed thoughts

    Risk of Suicide
    • References to suicide, homicide or death
    • Evidence of cutting
    • Expressing thoughts of helplessness or hopelessness
    • Saying things like "I don't deserve to be here" or "I want to die"

    • If a student exhibits any of the signs above, speak to the student privately and don't be afraid to ask what's wrong.
    • Explain what you have heard or observed that makes you concerned about the student, using language such as "I'm concerned about…"
    • Allow the student to talk, and help them elaborate. Pick up on body language cues.
    • Listen respectfully without judgment. Be careful not to overreact with too much emotion or panic.
    • Validate the difficult circumstances or feelings expressed, and convey your concern for the student's well-being.

    Get more tips on approaching students in distress.

    • Recommend the student speak to a counselor in the Wellness Center. Explain the helpfulness of counseling and normalize the process. Emphasize that the services are free and confidential.
    • For signs of psychological or emotional distress (unpleasant emotions that impact functioning, such as sadness, anxiety, fatigue or moodiness), contact the Wellness Center (Room C-249) emergency hotline at ext. 4444. Then, refer the student to room C-249 or call us at 718-482-5471, option 2.
      • Important note: For signs of imminent danger to themselves or others, such as physical harm or death, contact Public Safety (Room M-145) at ext. 5555.
    • If the student is reluctant to accept a referral or you are uncomfortable suggesting services, call the Wellness Center and share your observations and concerns. A plan can be arranged to reach out to the student and to assess their emotional state.
    • Communicate your continued interest and concern by checking with the student to determine if they followed up on your recommendation.
    • Continue to be supportive, and inquire periodically about how he/she is doing.

    Please remember that confidentiality limits the Wellness Center from providing information about a student without their written consent.
  • Wellness Center Student seeking Help

  • Wellness Center Resources
  • Additional Resources

    Most distressed students are relieved to know that someone has noticed and is paying attention. Here are some additional resources to help you support them.

    View resources to help those with stress and anxiety about the COVID-19 pandemic.
    See a full list of emergency services, mental health organizations and more.
    Keep safety in mind. As you interact with a distressed student, maintain a safe distance. Trust your instinct. If danger to you or the student seems imminent, call Public Safety at ext. 5555.

    Avoid escalation. Distressed students can sometimes be easily provoked. Avoid responses that are intimidating, threatening or humiliating. Refrain from asserting authority unless you are certain of the student's mental health status. Distressed students are in need of listening and support.

    Ask direct questions. Take a calm and matter-of-fact approach. Ask the student directly if they are under the influence, confused or have thoughts of harming themselves.

    Ask open-ended questions. Encourage the student to go further into the subject, beyond yes/no answers. (e.g. "Tell me more about…" and "How have you been feeling since that happened to you?")

    Confirm your understanding of the issue. Respond to the student by reflecting back what they said, but in your own words, to ensure you understand the issue.

    Don't dismiss the student's perspective. What may seem like a temporary or insignificant issue to you may feel momentous and overwhelming to a student in distress. It may be helpful for you to reflect upon a time in your own life when you experienced something similar. (Remember when you had to juggle school, work and life?)

    Avoid labeling the student or his/her behavior. For example, don't say "You're an alcoholic" or "You're high." Labels can anger the student and reduce the chances that they will acknowledge and address the problem. Maintain the professional nature of a relationship with your student and help him/her understand available options.

    Acknowledge the student's courage to open up. Frame the decision to accept help as being a mature choice. Suggest that a willingness to accept assistance from others, including a counselor, indicates that the student is not running away from problems. Reinforce that speaking to a counselor is a positive and responsible thing to do.

    This is especially important to males, as men in our society are encouraged to be independent, keep feelings to themselves and solve problems on their own.

    Do not assume you are being manipulated. While it is true that some students appear distressed in order to get attention or relief from responsibility, only a thorough assessment can determine this. Attention-seekers can have serious problems and be in danger, too.

    Know your limits. You will be able to assist many distressed students on your own by simply listening and referring them to the Wellness Center. Respect any feelings of discomfort you may have, and focus on getting the student the help they need. Signs that you may be overextending yourself include feeling stressed or overwhelmed by the situation, feeling angry at or afraid of the student, and having thoughts of rescuing the student.

    Respect the student's privacy. Confidentiality is important for trust, so you typically should not share with others what the student has shared with you. In situations involving a serious risk of harm to the person or someone else, don't promise to keep secrets.

    Note: FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) does not prevent you from talking to another College employee or office about a student in distress in order to assist the student or protect yourself/class from disruption or threat of violence.

  • How We Can Help

    Accredited by the International Association of Counseling Services, the Wellness Center provides counseling and wellness services that support students in their intellectual, emotional, psychological and social development while helping them with the challenges of college and life stressors.

    Short-term Counseling
    Students can discuss concerns with a licensed mental health professional in a safe and confidential setting.

    Group Counseling
    Students can share experiences, learn perspectives and practice new behaviors in a small group facilitated by one or more licensed mental health counselors.

    Crisis Intervention
    If a student is believed to be at risk, the Wellness Center is available to provide support and direction. See our referral guide for more information.

    Referrals to Community-based Programs
    We connect students with partnering agencies for extended care or specialized services.

    A.S.S.I.S.T Program
    This peer coaching program helps students on the autism spectrum and with severe anxiety disorders.

    Alternative Wellness Workshops
    Faculty, staff and students can participate in yoga, tai chi and other workshops that focus on mental, physical and spiritual health. See the campus calendar for upcoming events.

    Outreach and Education
    We provide a wide range of workshops, in-services and training for faculty, staff and students. We can also help you become a mentor to strengthen our network of support to students who are at risk for harm..
    Check out our presentation topics below. Each workshop lasts 60 minutes.

    To arrange a workshop, please contact us at ext. 5471. If you have a topic in mind that is not on this list, we'd be happy discuss how we might be able to meet your needs.
    Mindfulness and Meditation
    Bullying on College Campuses
    Learn to Learn
    The ABCs of Healthy Relationships
    Struggling with Depression?
    Save A Life
    The Many Faces of Anxiety 
    Stress Management 
    Test Taking Anxiety and Time Management
    Misusing Alcohol and other Substances
    An Overview of Mental Health Challenges
    What About the Wellness Center?
    An interactive presentation using guided imagery, mediation and mindfulness as tools to reduce stress and balance the body and mind.
    A presentation to promote discussion and thought around the severity of bullying and what students can do to intervene and become active bystanders.
    A workshop exploring learning styles and techniques that will help reduce your stress about your style.
    An interactive workshop on ways to build and maintain healthy relationships.
    Learn to identify the physical and emotional signs of depression
    An overview of the signs, symptoms and responses to people at risk of suicide.
    Learn about the different types of anxiety that could affect you and the people around you.
    What type of stress do you have? How does stress affect you? Understand how the symptoms of stress manifest in people, and learn about tools that can help you manage your stress.
    How does anxiety interfere with your academic goals? Learn how effective time-management skills can help you do better on exams.
    A presentation regarding the risks and dangers of using alcohol and drugs.
    Students will learn about alcohol and substance use disorders, anxiety, depression and suicidal thought and behavior.
    An overview of the services and programs of the Wellness Center and how it supports student success.
    If you require an accommodation such as a sign language interpreter or captionist, please contact the Wellness Center no later than two weeks prior to the date of the workshop. Please send your request, including the topic you are interested in and your preferred date and time, to Matthew S. Joffe, director of outreach and education, at matthewj@lagcc.cuny.edu.
    We offer a training session for faculty and staff members called Managing Disruptive Behavior in the Classroom. This training will equip you with effective interventions to help prevent and/or limit behavior that negatively impacts the learning process.
    We are committed to raising awareness about the signs, symptoms and the prevention of suicidal thoughts and action. One of the strongest methods institutions can provide is “gatekeeper” training such as Mental Health First Aid (MHFA). MHFA yields a three-year certification and prepares you to make a difference in someone’s life. (Note: This training does not teach you to be a counselor.)

    To register or request additional information, please contact Matthew S. Joffe at matthewj@lagcc.cuny.edu.

    Learn more about how the Wellness Center supports students. Accredited
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