Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
Wheaton College
Counseling Center

Campus Life


Wheaton faculty, staff, and residential advisors are in a unique position to notice students in distress, engage them in conversations about their situations, and refer them to appropriate resources for assistance. The following guidelines may be useful in helping you communicate effectively with students who are experiencing psychological distress.

  • Speak with the student in private.
  • Listen carefully and show genuine concern and interest.
  • Repeat back the essence of what the student told you.
  • Avoid questions that sound critical or judgmental.
  • Offer specific, non-judgmental descriptions of the behaviors that are concerning you (e.g., I'm concerned that you haven't turned in the last three assignments).
  • Try to determine if the student has a support system (friends, family members) and is reaching out to that support system for help.
  • If you are concerned about the possibility of self-injury or suicide, ask directly if the student is considering hurting him/herself.
  • Consider the Counseling Center as a resource and discuss a referral with a student.
  • Describe other resources available on campus (Dean of Students Office, Office of Student Life, Academic Advising Office).
  • Give the student a sense of hope that things can improve with a new plan of action.
  • If a student resists help and you are worried, contact the Counseling Center at 286-3905 for a consultation.

How to refer a distressed student

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