Students at the University of Michigan may experience a wide range of mental health issues during the course of their academic experience. As faculty members, teaching assistants, or staff members in academic departments, you may encounter students who need mental health support. Your role can be a positive and crucial one in identifying students who are in distress and assisting them to find the resources available to help.
Often, you as a staff or faculty person will be one of the first persons to find out that a student is having personal problems that are interfering with their academic success or daily lives. The student may come to you for academic advising, or visit during office hours, send you an email, etc. and in this process share personal concerns with you.
Our goal is to offer commons scenarios that frequently happen and to suggest ways to address these situations - by so doing, we are ultimately providing a web of support by helping students get the mental health support they need by taking advantage of the many resources at UM.
The University's commitment to diversity and inclusiveness extends to students who have mental health concerns. The University is committed to the academic success, personal development and general health of all students. Some students with mental health issues may request reasonable accommodations through the Services for Students with Disabilities Office. Compliance with these requests is required by federal law, state law and University Policy.
I am not sure what to say to a student in distress.
- Do not swear secrecy or offer confidentiality to the student.
- Try to focus on an aspect of the problem that is manageable.
- Avoid easy answers such as, "Everything will be all right."
- Be accepting and respectful to what is said.
- Help the person recall constructive methods used in the past to cope; get the person to agree to do something constructive to change things.
- Trust your insight and reactions. Let others know your concerns.
- Attempt to address the person's needs and seek appropriate resources.
- Encourage the person to seek help.
- Respect the student's value systems, even if you don't agree.
My student hasn't been to class in 2 weeks and hasn't given any explanation. What should I do?
- If the student is willing to, schedule a meeting.
- Let this meeting be a conversation to get the student talking.
- Carefully ask about the student's attendance to your class.
- If the students wants to speak with someone, but wants to keep the situation confidential, refer them a CAPS.
If I have a student in need of mental health support after 5pm. What do I do? Where should I go?
My student has written something in a paper that I am concerned about. What should I do?
What should I do if a student declines help or doesn't want to seek counseling?
- Identify what the hesitation is about.
- Dispute the myth that only "weak or crazy" people go for counseling or use others for help.
- Remind them that campus counseling resources are free and confidential services.
- Ask why the student does not want to seek help and then address the reasons, myths, and misperceptions with facts and understanding.
- If your student still does not want help, be assured that you have done your best to give support and provide help.
- If you are concerned that your student may harm themselves or others:
- If there is immediate danger- call DPS (734) 763-1131 or 911
- If not, consult CAPS (734) 764-8312
I am worried about a student's safety.
- Voice your concerns about their safety and describe the behavior or situation that is worrisome to you.
- If you are concerned the student may be feeling hopeless and thinking about ending their life, ask if she/he is contemplating suicide. Asking about suicide doesn't lead the student to think/do more about it. It is important to remember that talking about suicide is a warning sign that needs to be followed up. Seek help from one of the resources on campus.
- Offer yourself as a caring person until professional assistance has been obtained.
- After the student leaves your office, make some notes documenting your interactions.
- Consult with others in your department on your experience.
- Consult with Department of Public Safety
(734) 763-1131 or 911.
My student has said they can't complete my class due to mental health issues, what do I do?
- Consulting within your department administration, with the Dean of Students Office, and/or with a mental health professional, can usually provide the next steps to take.
Under what circumstances should I call DPS?
Department of Public Safety
Call: (734) 763-1131 or 911
Can I share my concerns about a student with someone else in my department?
When in doubt, consult.
Are their unique resources for graduate students in need of mental health support? What resources are available to them?
All mental health resources available to undergraduate students are also available to graduate students. Please consult on-campus and off-campus resources.
What can I do to support mental health on a regular basis?
- Promote Mental Health Awareness in your classroom
- Around midterms or finals, remind students of the resources that are available to them (CAPS, etc.)
- Encourage students to inform their friends or others about available mental health support resources
- Put a sentence or two in your syllabus to reflect your approach to supporting students' mental health. Include contact information for the resources available to students.
In addtion, please include a statement in writing on all syllabus materials consistent with the language adopted by SACUA. We recommend the following statement:
"If you think you need an accommodation for a disability, please let me know at your earliest convenience. Some aspects of this course, the assignments, the in-class activities, and the way I teach may be modified to facilitate your participation and progress. As soon as you make me aware of your needs, we can work with the Office of Services for Students with Disabilities to help us determine appropriate accommodations. I will treat any information you provide as private and confidential."
Along with the statement on syllabus materials, also make the following in-class statement:
"Any student who believes that he/she has a disability and may need an accommodation for this course, please make an appointment to see me during my office hours."
This approach indicates the willingness of the faculty member to provide assistance and also preserves students' privacy.