Responding to Student Concerns

What you should know about responding to student concerns - Guidelines

Because you come in frequent contact with many students, you are in an excellent position to observe students, identify those who are in distress, and offer assistance. Your care, concern and assistance will often be enough to help the student. At other times, you can play a critical role in referring a student for professional assistance and in motivating him or her to seek such help. A few guidelines for responding to students of concern are summarized below:

  • Observe: The first important step in assisting a student of concern is to be familiar with the symptoms of distress and attend to their occurrence. An attentive observer will pay close attention to direct communications as well as to implied or hidden feelings.
  • Initiate Contact: Don't ignore strange, inappropriate or unusual behavior - respond to it! Talk to the student privately, in a direct and matter-of-fact manner, indicating concern. Early feedback, intervention and/or referral can prevent more serious problems from developing.
  • Offer Support and Assistance: Among the most important helping tools are interest, concern and attentive listening. Listen to the student in a respectful, non-threatening way. Convey support and understanding by summarizing what you hear the student saying, their feelings and the nature of the problem. Suggest other resources that the student can take advantage of, such as friends, family, or professionals on campus.
  • Consult With Professionals: In your attempt to help a student, you may need input from a counseling professional. Counselors at Madison College can suggest possible approaches to take, can intervene directly with students, or can provide you with support. Call (608) 246-6076 for assistance.
  • Refer Directly To a Mental Health Professional: Know your limits as a help-giver; only go as far as your expertise and resources allow. When a student needs more help than you are able or willing to give, it is time to make a referral to a mental health professional.

There are policies and procedures to respond to disruptive students. Become familiar with these. Behavior or academic performance of concern should be shared with advising and counseling staff to assist you to connect with resources. Watch a short video on the Early Alert and Behavioral Intervention Team processees for sharing your concern.