Students in Distress

Identifying and Assisting Students in Distress


How Can You Help?

Distressed students often have not sought counseling and may be unaware of the services available to them. Your role could be crucial in identifying students who are in distress and assisting them to find the resources available to help themselves. 

What Signs Indicate that a Referral to Counseling at CAPS Might Be Helpful?

The following signs may indicate a need to refer a student to counseling services:

  • Abrupt/radical changes in behavior, including a dramatic decrease in academic functioning
  • Isolation from others
  • Noticeable changes in mood, such as depression, apathy, or irritability
  • Poor attendance in classes
  • Sudden outbursts of anger
  • Attention/memory difficulties
  • Alcohol/drug abuse
  • Marked change in personal hygiene/appearance
  • Inappropriate crying
  • Bizarre statements or behavior
  • Suicidal statements

How Do I Talk With a Student About a Referral to Counseling at CAPS?

Although it may feel intrusive or awkward to address these personal issues with students, more often than not students appreciate your efforts in the long run. Tell the student you would like to speak with them about concerns you have and ask the student to meet with you during office hours or some other mutually agreed upon time. In the course of sharing your concern do not attempt to be the counselor but do provide information and referral options regarding available campus and community resources.

Guidelines for Interacting with the Student

  • Be mindful of the student’s privacy.
  • Listen carefully; show concern and interest.
  • Avoid criticizing or sounding judgmental.
  • Suggest Counseling Services at CAPS as a resource and discuss this with them. Share the URL caps.msu.edu with the student.
  • Explain to the student that counseling and referral services at CAPS are confidential. Let the student know that the Counseling and other CAPS staff members will not discuss their concerns with anyone (not even you) without their written permission.
  • If the student resists help and you are still worried, contact CAPS to discuss your concerns.

How Do I Make a Referral to Counseling Services?

  • Provide the student with the CAPS phone number: 517-355-8270 or direct him/her to caps.msu.edu for further information
  • Consider having the student call CAPS from your office.
  • Follow up with the student by inquiring as to whether she/he followed through with their appointment and how she/he felt about the session.

Can I Call and Make the Appointment on the Student’s Behalf?

No. We are unable to allow anyone other than the student to make an appointment for counseling at CAPS. You can be most helpful by encouraging the student to make an appointment and/or by allowing the student to call from your office.

What Should I Do if the Student is in Distress and Immediate Attention is Needed?

  • Let the student know that they should call CAPS at 355-8270 and identify her/him/themself as needing immediate assistance. A phone or in-person consultation will occur the same day.
  • If you wish to be certain the student makes the session, call CAPS while the student is in your office.
  • It may be helpful for you to accompany the student to CAPS at Olin Health Center and/or wait while they meet with a counselor.
  • If you consider the situation to be an emergency, dial 911 before contacting CAPS. Do not delay attending to safety issues.

The Counseling staff at CAPS welcomes your calls (517-355-8270) at any time to consult with us regarding your concerns about your students. Counseling staff can offer suggestions and ideas about referral options, resources, and other ways to address your concerns.