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Tips for Dealing with Distressed Students

Most of the student population at Ball State University are not permanent residents of Muncie. This means that when the majority of our students first matriculate or return after a semester break, they leave many of the support systems (e.g., family and friends) that they utilize to cope with life's vicissitudes and distressing events. Although many students quickly establish new and effective support systems in Muncie, the difficulty that others have in doing this may seriously interfere with their ability to make the most of their own learning potential and the educational opportunities available to them at Ball State. The problem may become particularly acute during some of the common "crisis periods" during the semester (e.g., mid-term, final exam, pre-holiday periods).

Although the Counseling Center serves over 4000 students each semester in some capacity, there are other students who either find alternate sources of support or who do not find the support they need to minimize the negative impact of distress on their learning. Our assumption is that students frequently, and appropriately, look to faculty and staff for support. Further, we assume that faculty and staff can identify a student's need for support and offer valuable assistance even when the student does not initiate it.

Your willingness to respond to students in distress will undoubtedly be influenced by your personal style and your particular philosophy about the limits of a professor's or staff member's responsibility for helping students grow emotionally as well as intellectually. Obviously, a student's openness to assistance, location of the contact, and such situational factors as class size, length, and depth of your relationship may have a substantial effect on the type of interactions you can have with a student.

This information has been prepared to assist faculty and staff in the early identification, brief facilitation, and effective referral of students in distress. It is our aim to provide you with some useful information and recommendations that have emerged from our experience in dealing with student distress that may better prepare you to assist all students in making optimum use of their educational experience at Ball State.