Virtual Resource Guide

Concerned Faculty and Staff: A Guide for Remote Learning
All members of the Gateway Community College community (faculty, staff, and students) are dedicated to the highest
standards of education and share the responsibility of maintaining a safe learning environment. The campus
community is committed to helping students grow both intellectually and personally so that they develop emotional
resilience that enables them to respond to life events in ways that support their well-being and integrity. It is important
that faculty, and staff recognize and acknowledge when a student is experiencing distress. You might be the first
person to notice, or you might be the first person who is in a position to assist the student. If you encounter a student
who exhibits problematic behaviors, please reach out to the Counseling & Wellness Center directly by completing an ICARE report. Please be aware I-CARE reports are confidential and results from reports will only be given if the student
gives consent to do so. If you believe the situation is an emergency: Call 911

Identifying Students in Distress
As a faculty or staff member interacting with students, you are in an excellent position to recognize behavior changes
that characterize the emotionally troubled student. A student's behavior, especially if it is inconsistent with your previous
observations, could well constitute an attempt to draw attention to their plight: "a cry for help."

When considering the signs for online students, use your knowledge of whatever interactions you have with students,
knowing that you cannot observe everything due to the nature of online classrooms. When in doubt, please consult
with the Counseling & Wellness Center staff regarding students of concern. Below is a list of signs that may indicate
that a student is in distress:

Academic Signs:

  • Significant shift in quality of work
  • Missed assignments, deadlines or appointments
  • Chronic absenteeism
  • Repeated absence from class, exams, and other activities – including refusing to turn camera on during online class lecture
  • Reoccurring requests for unusual accommodations (late papers, extensions, postponed exams, etc.)
  • Essays or papers that expresses hopelessness, social isolation, rage, or despair
  • Decreased engagement in participation-oriented classes
  • Inappropriate disruptions or monopolizing classroom time

Physical or Psychological Signs:

  • Excessive anxiety or panic
  • Apathy, lack of energy, a change in sleeping or eating habits, or dramatic weight gain or loss
  • Significant changes in personal hygiene, work habits, or social behavior
  • Mood elevation
  • Isolation or withdrawal
  • Overtly suicidal thoughts, such as referring to suicide as a current option
  • Giving away treasured personal possessions
  • Increased irritability or aggressive behavior
  • Bizarre thinking, seemingly at odds with the reality of the situation (such as paranoia)
  • Excessive use of alcohol or other drugs

Other Factors to Consider:

  • Direct statements indicating family problems, personal losses such as death of a family member or the break-up of a relationship that seem to be causing significant distress
  • Expressions of concern about a student by peers
  • Written note/email or verbal statement that has a sense of hopelessness or finality
  • Your judgment, however vague, that something is seriously amiss

What You Can Do
Taking the step to assist a student can save a life or many lives. An individual who is distressed often wants help but
doesn't know how to ask. You can begin the process by expressing your concern in a caring, nonjudgmental way. By
offering assistance, you can play an essential role in maintaining the health and wellness of our students in their
pursuit of academic excellence.

  • Find a private, comfortable place/time to talk.
  • 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.
  • Ask if the student has ever talked about this problem with anyone else, including a counselor. Try to get an accurate understanding of the issues, and, if appropriate, encourage the student to talk about the situation with a professional.
  • In your own words, express your concern using statements like, "I'm concerned that...".
  • Ask open-ended questions. The student may choose not to answer but may feel relieved to know you are trying to understand.
  • Don't feel compelled to find a solution. Often, listening is enough.
  • Suggest that the student can get more help if needed.
  • Don't hesitate to ask for support from the Counseling & Wellness Center staff.

How to Make a Referral

  • Suggest that the student make an appointment with a counselor from the Counseling & Wellness Center. Let them know that the first step to feeling better is getting help. To schedule an appointment, students can call (203) 285-2480 or email
  • Introduce student to the Counseling & Wellness Center and inform student that you will make a referral to have a counselor reach out for additional support – should you feel safe enough to do so.
  • If the student is hesitant to have an I-CARE report made, explain to the student that:
    • Counseling through the Counseling & Wellness Center is confidential. This means that information about the student cannot be released to other offices, family members or faculty without the student’s written permission (except when the student is in danger of harming himself/herself or others).

Students in Crisis

A crisis is a situation in which an individual's usual style of coping is no longer effective, and the emotional or physiological response begins to escalate. As emotions intensify, coping becomes less effective, until the person becomes disoriented, nonfunctional, or attempts to harm themselves or others. If a student is in a serious mental health crisis, you might see or hear the following signs:

  • Suicidal statements or suicide attempts
  • Written or verbal violence or acting out violently
  • Destruction of property or other criminal acts
  • Extreme anxiety resulting in panic reactions
  • Inability to communicate (e.g., garbled or slurred speech, disjointed thoughts)
  • Loss of contact with reality (e.g., seeing or hearing things that aren't there, expressing beliefs or actions at odds with reality)
  • Highly disruptive behavior (e.g., hostility, aggression, violence)

What to Do When You Suspect a Serious Crisis

If you believe there may be imminent danger of harm to a student or the community, as evidenced by these crisis symptoms, get help immediately: Call 911.

If you need help in assessing the situation during business hours, call the Counseling Center at (203) 285-2480. If you need help in assessing the situation outside business hours, call 911 for a wellness check. 

Special thanks to Bay Path University for language borrowed from their handbook on “Helping an Online Student in Distress A Guide for Concerned Faculty and Staff” Revised 8/10/20