Counseling  and Health Services 

Helping and Identifying Students in
Emotional Distress

Counseling & Health Services, Kingsborough Community College
Faculty and staff members are usually the first persons in a college community to observe students who are experiencing personal distress. Some indications of a student experiencing problems are agitated behavior or withdrawal. Students may also reveal problems through personal communication to the faculty, both oral and written. The following general descriptions are made to help faculty recognize and refer students who present with behavioral or emotional problems.

Agitated Behavior

  • The student speaks out in class without waiting to be recognized
  • The student interrupts other students or the instructor
  • The student walks around the classroom/ comes and goes often
  • The student appears emotionally volatile, loses his/her temper, cries easily, or uses profane language
  • The student comes in late, pushes chairs around and becomes disruptive when taking a seat

 Withdrawn Behavior

  • The student is excessively absent or frequently late
  • The student sits in the back of the room and/or does not participate in class. (Keep in mind that cultural factors, as well as anxiety about speaking in class, may inhibit student participation.)
  • The student frequently displays drowsiness or sleeps in class.
  • The student frequently daydreams as exemplified by inappropriate responses when asked a question
  • The student is engrossed in other reading in class
  • The student might have a vacant stare

It is important to try to resist the temptation to “profile” students. However, as faculty you are in an excellent position to recognize behavior changes in a troubled student. A student’s concerning behavior may be a “cry for help”. Student behaviors exist along a continuum that can range in level of concern and severity from distressed, disturbing, disruptive, and dangerous.

Signs of Psychological Distress
Some signs of psychological distress are obvious, but others are subtle or ambiguous.

Obvious signs include:

  • Bizarre or strange behavior  
  • References to harming self or others
  • Crying or persistent sadness
  • Nervousness, agitation impaired speech, tics
  • High level of irritability
  • Marked deterioration

Ambiguous signs include:

  • Dependency (e.g., excessive demands on your time)
  • Excessive procrastination or very poor work
  • Inability to make decisions
  • Persistent sleepiness
  • Persistent lack of interest
  • Monopolizing of classroom discussion

How to Help
Once a student manifests some of the signs of emotional distress, a faculty member may take one or more of the following actions:

  • Approach the student and suggest a meeting after class. The meeting should be in a private location
  • Indicate in a supportive manner that you have noticed that the student seems “troubled/upset”, “tuned out”
  • If the student does not want to discuss any personal matters with you respect his/her reluctance and gently indicate that counselors are available at the college’s Counseling Center
  • If the student indicates a willingness to discuss his/her problems, listen  - without making too many responses or suggestions

If you think the student would be receptive to seeing a counselor at the College, discuss referring him/her to the Counseling Center. You may choose to contact a counselor you know personally or call the office at the following main number: (718) 368-5975. It is advisable to accompany the student to the office in D-102 versus leaving it to them to come on their own.  Alternatively, you can ask that a counselor contact a student if the student knows that you have arranged this.

Handling Disruptive Behavior in the Classroom
A student’s disruptive behavior (i.e., hostile or inappropriate remarks, repeated lateness, frequent interruptions, walking around the room, and slamming books on the desk) may present a challenge to the faculty member’s resourcefulness and patience and may subvert the teaching process and interfere with other students’ learning.
When a student is defiant it is essential to avoid confrontation in the classroom. In this setting, the student may feel a need to save face and may not back down in front of other students. If the student is violent, faculty are advised to avoid escalating the situation, speak calmly and avoid physical contact. 
Some suggestions for dealing with disruptive students:

  • Ask the student to leave the classroom with you and escort him/ her to a place where you can talk privately
  • If the student is unwilling to leave the classroom to talk with you, contact the security office and request assistance
  • After a disruptive episode in which a counselor has not been involved, the following suggestions are made to help resolve a crisis:
  • Consult with the Vice President of Student Affairs Office (Extension 5563). 

In addition, you can complete and submit an incident report to the Assessment and Care Team (ACT). Please go to the following website to complete a report:  ACT.   It is helpful if you keep an accurate record of what has transpired in the classroom.

NOTE: Any reference to suicide is serious and a referral to counseling is strongly advised. You should not leave the student alone if he/she manifests suicidal intent. Please walk the student to the Counseling Center in room D-102 or call Public Safety. Alternatively, the student can be walked to the Health Center.

Recognizing Depression in Particular

Below are some ways of recognizing depression in students:

  • Students may report lack of energy, loss of appetite, weight loss or weight gain
  • Students may appear lonely and withdrawn
  • Students may indicate in writing that they want to end one’s life
  • Students may be irritable and short tempered
  • Students may share consistently negative thoughts in classroom discussion or may seem hopeless about their future
  • Students may demonstrate really poor self esteem
  • Students may fall asleep or may be frequently absent from class
  • Students from other countries may talk about “culture shock” and being homesick

Intervention
As a faculty and staff member you are often on the front line. A student may feel comforted just by a simple act of indicating that you are concerned. They may feel relief that someone else cares. You may use the following language when talking to a student:

  • "I've noticed that you've appeared sad and withdrawn during our last few meetings…"
  • "I'm aware that you have fallen asleep in class more often during the past few weeks…"
  • "I'm concerned about your tendency to come late to class lately and I want to make sure that you are okay…"

Other Helpful Tips

  • It is not helpful to tell students, “look on the bright side” or “you’ll get over it”
  • Don't feel afraid to ask if they are suicidal (most likely this is not the first time they have had these thoughts). Studies indicate that roughly 10% of college students had thoughts of suicide in the past year and 1.4% admitted to attempting it
  • Be direct and nonjudgmental when talking with students
  • It is helpful to know about the Counseling Center and services offered at KCC
  • Find out if students have resources at home, etc.
  • Find out if they have ever used counseling services in the past

Mental illness is protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The college can intervene with disciplinary action of some sort when the behavior is disruptive. When the person is ill and the behavior is not disruptive, there is no basis for removal from a class or any other type of disciplinary action.

Assessment and Care Team (ACT)
Kingsborough Community College is concerned about the safety, health, and well-being of all of its students, faculty, and staff.

The Assessment and Care Team (ACT) has been created to identify, investigate, assess, refer, monitor and take action in response to behaviors exhibited by Kingsborough students that may pose a threat to the college community.

Anyone who is concerned about a student and his/her behavior can make an ACT referral; including students, parents, faculty and staff, and other community members.

As a result of a referral to ACT, the ACT will assess the situation and make recommendations for action. Such actions may range from a counseling or academic support referral to removing the student from the college community by means of the appropriate University processes. When appropriate, ACT will refer students, not deemed to be high risk, to campus resources and services that will enable them to remain in good standing at Kingsborough.  For more information please visit (click):  https://www.kbcc.cuny.edu/act/ .

Consultations and Presentations
To consult with a counselor, please call the Counseling Center at 718-368-5975.
Requests for Presentations:
We offer presentations to faculty and staff upon request about the following:

  • Recognizing and responding to students in distress.
  • Information about mental health resources on campus resources and when/how to make a referral to any one of the four programs within Counseling & Health Services.

Campus Resources

Office of the Vice President of Student Affairs
Phone 718 368 5563 | Room A 216

Health Center
Phone 718 368 5684 | Room A 108 

Student Wellness Center
Phone 718 368 5300 | Room A 108 (Offices E & F)

Women’s Center
718 368 4700 | Room M 382

Public Safety
Phone 718 368 5069 and 718 368 7777 | Room L 202

Single Stop
Phone 718 368 5411 | Room E 115

KCC Assessment & Care Team (ACT) https://www.kbcc.cuny.edu/act/

Off Campus Resources
NYC Well
Phone 1-888-NYC-WELL (1-888-692-9355). Press 2 for English, Press 3 for Spanish, Press 4 for Mandarin or Text “WELL” to 65173.  For relay service for Deaf/Hard of Hearing, call 711.

National Suicide Prevention Hotline
Phone 1 800 SUICIDE (1 800 784 2433) 

JED Foundation (Suicide Prevention)
Phone 212 647 7544

National Institute of Mental Health
Phone 1 800 421 4211