How To Support A Student - Faculty and Staff, Family, Friends

You are in a position to observe aspects of student lives that are not visible to others. Are you noticing anything unusual or concerning about a student, such as:

  • Decline in self-care (e.g., no longer eating, bathing)
  • Failure to fulfill obligations (e.g., missing class, practice)
  • Negatively affecting other students
  • Serious substance use
  • Risk-taking behavior
  • Indications of thoughts of harm to self and/or others
  • Odd behaviors (e.g., talking to themselves, not making sense when speaking with others)

If you think a student is in distress, and if you have feel you have a comfortable rapport to reach out to them, this is often the first and best step toward helping an individual seek support and feel better. It sends a clear message to the student that people care about their health and safety. Try to be empathetic and understanding and consider the following guidelines:

  • Hold conversations in a private space
  • Listen attentively and give your loved one (the student) room to speak
  • Be supportive and positive
  • Point out specific signs that you have observed that support your concerns
  • Be upfront about concerns regarding suicidality and self-harm, it is important that we don’t beat around the bush with this topic; use words such as “suicide” and “self-harm” when having this discussion
  • Ask your family member what support or help they desire and what they think they need in order to feel better
  • Provide whatever resources or referrals possible
  • Follow-up later and check-in to see how the person you care about is doing

If you are not comfortable engaging in a conversation, consider telling them about Middlebury College Counseling. If their concerns do not warrant a referral to Counseling, simply ask the student, “how are you doing?” A simple question such as this can often elicit the information needed to determine if further action is warranted.

If a student is displaying concerning behavior, do not hesitate to consult with peers, colleagues, Commons Deans, and Middlebury College Counseling. Consultation with Counseling can be confidential and anonymous. Additionally, our Counseling Support Line is available for consultation 24 hours/day, 7 days/week.

Some situations may warrant a higher level of action. If you are concerned about a student’s safety, contact their residential support (e.g. CRD, Commons Dean). You can contact Counseling at any time to consult. You can also call Public Safety’s emergency line (802-443-5911) or go to Porter Emergency Room.

Remember to take care of yourself. Holding conversations with and caring for someone who is in distress can be a difficult task. Take time to do what you need to make sure that you remain healthy. After all, you cannot fully care for someone else unless you take care of yourself. Don’t forget that there are other individuals on campus who can help support the student. It is not your role to solve the student’s problems, rather, you can help provide the resources to enable them to help themselves.

Counseling
Centeno House
Phone: (802) 443-5141
Fax: (802) 443-3407