Student Supports Can Be Lifesavers

 Dale Benham and student

Be a Lifesaver

The National Research Consortium of Counseling Centers in Higher Education offers these tips when you recognize signs of stress in the high school and college students in your life.

Talk to the student in private when both of you have time and are not rushed. Give the student your undivided attention. It is possible that just a few minutes of effective listening on your part may be enough to help the student feel comfortable about what to do next.

Be direct and nonjudgmental. Express your concern in behavioral, nonjudgmental terms. For example, a professor may say something like, “I’ve noticed you’ve been absent from class lately, and I’m concerned,” rather than, “Why have you missed so much class lately?”

Listen sensitively. Communicate understanding by repeating back the essence of what the student has told you. Try to include both the content and the feelings. Remember to let the student talk.

Refer. Point out that help is available, and emphasize that seeking help is a sign of strength. Make some suggestions about places to go for help. Tell the student what you know about the recommended person or service.

Follow up. Following up is an important part of the process. Check with the student later to find out how he or she is doing, and provide support as appropriate.

Nebraska Wesleyan’s supportive environment has the power to turn a B student into an A student. It can make the difference between graduating and dropping out. And sometimes, that support can even make the difference between life and death.

A survey from the National Research Consortium of Counseling Centers in Higher Education shows the numbers. Of the NWU students who responded:

  • 24 percent report moderate to substantial mental health concerns;
  • 19 percent report being victims of abuse or violence; and
  • 18 percent have at some point seriously considered attempting suicide.

It’s easy to see college as an idyllic time of exploration and renewal. These numbers remind us that students also face significant stressors during college. Nebraska Wesleyan’s caring culture and support systems can make a real difference for students in distress.

The Archway Fund sustains these services at NWU. And a grant from the Nebraska Youth Suicide Prevention Project funded further “gatekeeper training” to help faculty and staff to better recognize and respond to students in distress. “We know that this training can help us as we interact with students on our campus,” said Janelle Andreini, director of Nebraska Wesleyan’s Career and Counseling Center.