Referral Guidelines

Faculty, staff, parents, and friends of students are often among the first to notice students who are encountering overwhelming amounts of stress in their lives. This stress can seriously disrupt academic progress, personal relationships, and daily behavior.


Below are some guidelines to follow if you are concerned about a student. There is also a list of online resources for people who are concerned about the well-being of another.

Your Observations

  • Social isolation, withdrawal, lethargy.
  • Inability to focus on a specific topic in a conversation or activity.
  • Disorganized thinking and speech, feelings that are inappropriate to the situation, lack of affect, or other evidence that student is “out of touch with reality”.
  • Expression of feelings of persecution, strong mistrust of others.
  • Violent outbursts.
  • Signs of excessive alcohol or drug use.
  • Expressions of general unhappiness over a period of several weeks.
  • Frequent class absence or “disappearance” over extended periods.
  • Gain or loss of significant amounts of weight.
  • Abrupt change in manner, style, or personal hygiene.
  • Increasing dependence on you or others.

Student Complaints

  • Marked anxiety, extreme restlessness, inability to concentrate or relax.
  • Marked decrease or increase in appetite.
  • Marked decrease or increase in sleep.
  • Loss of interest in formerly pleasurable or meaningful activities, such as classes, social life, intimate relationships.
  • Expression of irrational fears.
  • Physical complaints without a medical cause, such as headache, stomach pains, etc.
  • Unusual ritualistic or repetitive behavior.
  • Chronic fatigue.
  • Suicidal thoughts, plans, threats.
  • Overwhelming financial obligations.

Student Background

  • History of emotional disturbances (e.g., depression, alcohol, drug abuse, eating disorder, anxiety, suicide attempts).
  • Traumatic family event(s) such as recent separation or divorce of parents, serious illness or death of family member, physical, emotional, or sexual abuse at home.
  • Recent loss of an important person (either by death or by separation/break-up).
  • Recent loss of esteem.
  • Previous period of poor functioning.

Guidelines for Responding

  • Share your interest and concern openly, directly, and with care.
  • Set clear limits.
  • Maintain a student’s privacy.
  • Do not promise confidentiality. Rather, inform a student that you will use discretion if seeking outside assistance.
  • Help a student tell his or her story. Offer the opportunity to listen to whatever is on the student’s mind.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of what the student discloses.
  • Clarify vague, confusing, or disturbing student disclosures. Ask, “What do you mean by…?”
  • Inquire how the student is attempting to respond to the problem.
  • Develop response options together.
  • Consider with the student the consequences of “doing more of the same.”
  • Consult with colleagues, Counseling Center staff, or others if you feel you need additional perspectives, before or after approaching the student.
  • Suggest a referral to the Counseling Center or other community resource.
  • Follow-up. Offer and be open to further contact.

Making a Referral to the Counseling Center

  • Office hours are 8:30-4:30 p.m., Monday – Friday during the academic year. Summer hours vary.
  • The Counseling Center generally operates on an appointment basis. Students wanting an initial meeting are advised to email the Counseling Center or stop by the Counseling Center located on the first floor of Dearing Hall (next to Chesnut Hall) to make an appointment. If you send an email, please include your name, student number, a phone number where you can be reached, and a brief description of the reason for making an appointment.
  • Emergencies are always accommodated as quickly as possible.
  • If it is an after-hours emergency,  go to your nearest hospital or call the 24-hour Emergency Crisis Hotline at (888) 279-8188 to be directed to the appropriate care.

Park University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Park University is a private, non-profit, institution of higher learning since 1875.