Written by Caryn Levington, Professor, Student Development

My faculty colleagues and friends, I am sure you have encountered the continuum of students experiencing psychological distress from normative experiences of suffering related to break-ups, finding a major, “adulting” or perhaps coming to campus as a returning adult or Veteran, all the way to students whose everyday functioning has become so impaired that the student is unable to remain in and/or succeed in your class. We see all of this in our daily lives in Psychological Services. Students come in requesting care, and in keeping with national trends, we continue to see and address a myriad of concerns, some of which are acute, some of which are chronic, and just about all of which are painful.

While mood disorders (think anxiety and depression) are the most common concerns students bring to us, we also see students experiencing intimate partner violence, coping with acute and chronic medical issues, physical disabilities and terminal conditions, trauma/PTSD, criminal victimization, grief and bereavement, suicidal ideation, thought disorders (most often schizophrenia and paranoid schizophrenia), relationship concerns, identity development (most often around race, gender, and sexual orientation), referrals and risk assessments generated from the HEAT, substance & poly-substance use and abuse, date rape/sexual assault, assertiveness training, eating disorders, disordered eating, and body dysmorphia, issues and concerns around housing and homelessness, food insecurity, concerns related to Title IX, financial/economic issues, personality disorders, attention deficit disorder, autistic spectrum disorder & related social and academic issues, bipolar disorder, psychological symptoms resulting from neurological issues including traumatic brain injuries/concussion, psychological issues related to being undocumented, academic distress, first generation students experiencing significant stress in the college environs, obsessive-compulsive disorder, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, chronic pain, and cancer, self-injurious behavior, including excoriation disorder, spiritual and religious concerns, academic and career issues (including academic failure, dismissal from career programs, finding/changing a major, transfer issues, financial issues, etc., generating numerous referrals to other Student Development centers), childhood physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, issues relating to transgender concerns and/or status, bullying, consultations regarding outside community services with therapists and psychiatrists, learning advocacy skills with peers, within dating relationships, and with instructors, parents, and College staff, transportation issues, unanticipated pregnancies, and complex, multi-layered familial issues, including adult abuse, to name a few. We also have seen (as I am sure many of you have) students expressing anxieties and pain related to national issues, including stress connected with DACA and immigration.

If you’re wondering what you can you do, I can share that students cite faculty as being supportive and helpful when you connect with psychologically distressed students in the natural ways you connect with any student you are concerned about.

This includes:

  • Listening to students.
  • Affirming the stress/anxiety/sadness they may be feeling, and normalizing that these conditions are part of life and can be worked through (in other words, expressing hope for them).
  • Acknowledging that in a faculty role, your role is to support their success, which includes caring for their well-being, which leads nicely into discussions around referrals.
  • To these ends, steering students to resources, including the Faculty Counselors in Student Development, Access and Disability Services, HEAT, and Psychological Services. Know too that it’s a student’s prerogative to decline referrals. But, when supportively made, our experience in Psychological Services is that students genuinely appreciate the care expressed by instructional faculty.
  • If you ever encounter a student expressing that s/he is in harm’s way or is contemplating harm to self or others, calling the Harper Police is warranted. Campus police will work with us to see that the student receives appropriate care.

Thank you for everything you do for students. We’re here for consultation as questions arise.

Contact Caryn to learn more about her sabbatical project which focused on promoting student mental health in and outside of the classroom: clevingt@harpercollege.edu.

Upcoming Wellness Outreach Program: Psychological Wellness 101

Date: Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Time: 1 p.m. – 2:15 p.m.

Location: Building D, Room D174

While employees are welcome to attend, this is a program designed to promote the psychological well-being and address student concerns commonly seen on our campus. Please consider sharing this information with your students. If you are interested in bringing a class to the program, please contact Caryn directly to ensure sufficient seating. This program can be used as an extra credit opportunity.