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Counseling Services

A Guide for Faculty and Staff

College years bring fond memories to many, yet thinking back carefully, we may also remember those days as having been quite stressful. Financial worries, leaving home and being on our own for the first time, and trying to do well academically contribute to stressful transitions to college life. GSW students also experience these struggles. Students are involved, to varying degrees, with their development as independent adults. Most are in the process of developing careers, relationships, life goals and their own individual identities. Situational and developmental problems frequently interfere with academic performance. In the college community, about 10 percent of the students may be distressed by depression, acute anxiety, drug or alcohol abuse, or more serious conditions. 

Many students realize that stress is interfering with their personal and academic goals and seek counseling services on their own. However, faculty, teaching assistants, and university staff are often the first to recognize that a student may not be functioning well academically and/or emotionally. Students may turn to you because of your position and the respect they hold for you as a faculty or staff member. Faculty/staff often handle these difficult situations themselves. While the number of such contacts may be small, their significance is not.

You are in an excellent position to spot the emotionally troubled student. This may be as a result of your position as an administrative assistant, dean, receptionist, or faculty member. You may observe that at certain times of the year, particularly during examinations and holidays, students experience increased anxiety. The student's behavior, especially if it is inconsistent with your experience of him/her, could well constitute an inarticulate attempt to draw attention to his/her plight, a "cry for help."

Beyond the support you can provide, there are also professional support services available to students through the Counseling Center. The Center staff are available to meet with students and to consult with Staff and Faculty about providing the help that students may need.

If you would like a downloadable document with tips specific for GSW, please click Tips for Helping Stressed Students for Staff and Faculty (DOCX).

Additionally, you may also find Addressing Disruptive and Dangerous Behavior in the Classroom and Around Campus (PDF) (by the National Behavioral Intervention Team Association, NaBITA) and Addressing Students' Needs: Dealing with Disruptive Behavior in the Classroom (PDF) (by Vanderbilt University) useful.

Identifying a Student in Distress

Many students have difficulty asking for help. Instead, they will show visible signs that they are struggling. Cause for concern should arise when symptoms of distress occur for extended periods of time or begin to interfere with a student's academic responsibilities or social/personal relationships. Following is a list of signs that might indicate a student is in distress. Note: This list is not meant to serve as a comprehensive list as students may exhibit other behaviors that are just as serious but are not listed.

Academic Signs

  • Significant decline in quality of work
  • Repeated absence(s) from class and/or lab
  • Not handing in homework or assignments
  • Coursework that expresses signs of anger/hopelessness/isolation/depression/despair
  • Inappropriate disruptions or verbalizations in class
  • Lack of participation during in-class group activities

Psychological or Physical Signs

  • Deterioration in physical appearance or hygiene
  • Exaggerated behaviors or personality traits (e.g., agitation, withdrawal)
  • Constant irritability, anxiety, or tearful behavior
  • Overt suicidal thoughts/behavior, referring to suicide as an option or manner of coping
  • Unwarranted anger, hostility, or outbursts
  • Significant changes in concentration or motivation
  • Evidence of alcohol or other drug dependence or abuse
  • Visible increases or decreases in weight
  • Extreme fatigue or sleepiness in class
  • Evidence of cutting behavior (e.g., knife-like cuts on arms)

Additional Factors to Consider:

  • Candid statements indicating family problems/ personal losses such as the death of a family member or the breakup of a significant relationship.
  • Expressions of concern about a student by peers, lab partner(s), or classmates.
  • Written or verbal statements that have a sense of finality or hopelessness.
  • Your sense that something is seriously amiss (no matter how vague this might be).


The following recommendations can be used if a student approaches you with a problem and/or if you decide to approach a student about any of the previous signs.

  • Privately talk to the student about your concerns. 
    Provide the student with your undivided attention. A few minutes of you listening may be enough to assist the student in solving the problem. Encourage the student to talk with a professional in the Counseling Center.
  • Express your concerns in nonjudgmental terms.
    Be direct and specific when expressing your concerns. For example, say something like, "I have noticed that you have not been handing in your work lately and I am concerned".
  • Listen to their thoughts and feelings in a sensitive, nonthreatening manner. 
    By repeating or paraphrasing the essence of what the student has conveyed to you, you communicate empathy and understanding. For example, "It sounds like you are having difficulty transitioning to your senior year and you feel anxious about the future". But remember, it is important to let the student do most of the talking.


If you believe the student is not a harm to themselves or others, suggest to them, in a caring manner, that they make an appointment in the Counseling Center. Reminder: If the student is a threat to themselves or others, it is best to contact the University Police at 229-931-2245.

Below is some additional information to offer when making the referral:

  • Sessions are confidential! This means that information about students cannot be released to family, friends, faculty, or other offices without the student's written permission. There are limitations to this confidentiality which will be explained to the student in their first session.
  • Counseling records are kept separately from academic records and are protected by law.
  • Counseling services are FREE to GSW students.
  • The Center is staffed by qualified counselors.


  1. Complete the referral form (DOCX)  -- click to edit and email.
  2. Email the form to the Counseling Center Admin at

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