Faculty and Staff Guide

We assist faculty with administrative referrals and consultation.

Familiarize yourself with the warning signs that may suggest a student is in distress. Counselors also are available for consultation if you have any questions.

We encourage faculty to be aware of the questions to ask and the resources available for students at risk.

Administrative Referrals, Academic Accommodations, and Attendance Verification Requests

If you are referring the student for an administrative reason, please first contact Student Counseling Center Executive Director Emilia K. Petrillo, LCSW-C, at 410-328-8404. You also may want to consider consulting with your office of Student Affairs or University Counsel (410-706-5353) if disciplinary or judicial infractions are involved. If you have a student you would like to be seen at the SCC, we are happy to provide that student with an evaluation and treatment recommendations and assist the student in finding the resources they need.

We do not provide mandated counseling; however, we can provide a mandated School-Requested Basic Mental Health Evaluation and provide treatment recommendations. If you are a faculty or staff member seeking a mandated evaluation for a student, please use the School-Requested Basic Mental Health Evaluation Referral Form.

Medical Leave of Absence

Students seeking a voluntary medical leave of absence for mental health reasons (MLOA) must follow their school or academic program’s policies and procedures for requesting and approving leave. Contact Executive Director Emilia K. Petrillo, LCSW-C, or Assistant Director Jenna Silverman, PhD, at 410-328-8404 for any questions related to MLOA. 

Attendance Verification Requests

If the student requests it in writing, attendance verification is available. It provides only the date and time of attendance and no additional information.

Academic Accommodations Requests

We do not provide assessments, evaluations, or documentation for students seeking academic accommodations. All students seeking academic accommodations should contact the Office of Educational Support and Disability Support by email or call 410-706-5889. Click here to visit the the Office of Educational Access and Disability Support Services website. Please review the University of Maryland policy regarding student accommodations as well as a list of providers that can provide evaluations.

Recognizing and Responding to Distressed Students

Faculty and staff are often in the most direct position to identify students in distress. Moreover, in your role you are perceived by some students as role models, mentors, advisors, and a source of support. Your expression of interest and concern may be critical in helping a student re-establish the emotional equilibrium necessary for academic success.

Students, like anyone else, might experience a crisis when the stress exceeds their coping resources. While it is understandable that one might be upset, depressed, or anxious in a given situation, the following signs might indicate that the response is persistent and more than just "situational."

Academic signs

  • Decline in quality of course work and class participation
  • Deficient reading speed or comprehension
  • Poor study habits
  • Disruptive behavior in class
  • Incapacitating test anxiety
  • Repeated requests for special consideration
  • Increased absences from class
  • Creative work or writings indicating extreme hopelessness, despair, anger, or isolation
  • Lack of alternative goals when failing
  • Chronic indecisiveness or choice conflict

Physical signs 

  • Dramatic weight loss or gain
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Attending class appearing bleary-eyed, hung over, or smelling of alcohol
  • Deterioration in personal appearance
  • Observable signs of an injury

Threat to safety signs

  • Homicidal threats, expressed verbally or through written content (assignments, papers, etc.)
  • Direct reference to suicide or indirect cues (assignments, papers, etc.)
  • Behavioral cues suggesting a suicide plan (giving away possessions, suicide note, accessing means to kill oneself, etc.)
  • Violent or extremely disruptive behavior
  • Stalking behaviors
  • Giving away treasured personal belongings
  • Feelings of hopelessness or helplessness

Suicide warning signs

  • Homicidal threats, expressed verbally or through written content (assignments, papers, etc.)
  • Direct reference to suicide or indirect cues (assignments, papers, etc.)
  • Behavioral cues suggesting a suicide plan (giving away possessions, suicide note, accessing means to kill oneself, etc.)
  • Violent or extremely disruptive behavior
  • Stalking behaviors
  • Giving away treasured personal belongings
  • Feelings of hopelessness or helplessness

Interpersonal signs

  • Isolation from friends, family, and classmates
  • Unwillingness to communicate
  • Inability to sleep or excessive sleep
  • Unexplained crying or outbursts of anger
  • Irritability, aggressiveness, agitation, nonstop talking
  • Excessive or irrational worrying (at odds with reality or probability)
  • Loss of contact with reality (seeing/hearing things that aren't there; beliefs or actions at odds with reality or probability)
  • Poor communication (garbled and slurred speech, disjointed and unconnected thoughts)
  • Feelings of shame, guilt and/or poor self esteem
  • Irrational feelings of persecution

Stressor signs

  • Problems with roommates, family, or romantic partners
  • Experiencing a death of a significant other
  • Experiencing a physical or sexual assault
  • Experiencing discrimination based on gender, race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or disabilities
  • Experiencing legal difficulties
  • Any other problem or situation that is experienced as a loss or stress

Responding to distressed students

The best ways to respond depend upon the urgency of the situation. For students who are having difficulty, but seem able to cope fairly well, you may choose not to intervene, to limit your interaction to the classroom issue, or to deal with it on a more personal level. If you judge a situation to be more urgent or an emergency (e.g., threat to safety/high-risk cues), you can call the SCC to consult with a clinician or direct the student to the emergency room with the assistance of the campus police.

Emergency Situations and Suicide Risk

If there is concern for the safety of you, the student, or anyone else, first take appropriate action to protect you, any other potential victim, and the potentially dangerous student.

  • If danger or an “out-of-control” situation appears imminent, contact Campus Police immediately at 711. This is the campus emergency number, and campus police will respond immediately and dispatch 911 emergency vehicles if necessary.
  • If the person has already caused harm to themself (e.g., taken pills), call 711 (on campus) or 911 (off campus) immediately, not the Student Counseling Center.

Suicide Risk

Helping a student in your office

If you are worried that a student may be considering suicide, assess if you have seen any behaviors that cause concern for violence, the student's well-being, or that are significantly disruptive to the campus environment. Also use direct questioning to ask whether the person is considering killing themself, e.g., “Are you thinking about killing yourself?" or "Do you have any plans to commit suicide?"

These are difficult questions to ask, but many research studies have shown that asking them do not increase the risk of suicide. For people who are considering suicide, these questions will not furnish them with new ideas. Most people who are actively suicidal are more than willing to discuss their plan.  Conversely, many people consider suicide from time to time in passing. The less specific and lethal the plan (e.g., “I guess I’d take a couple sleeping pills sometime”), the less likely a suicide attempt. If someone is at immediate risk, do not leave the person alone. Remove all possible dangerous items from their presence.

Never agree to keep another person’s serious suicidal or homicidal thoughts a secret.  Actively help the person to seek help.

If you are concerned about a student's suicide or homicide potential, the Student Counseling Center is available for consultation. If the student is with you, they might be agreeable to speaking to a counselor directly on the phone.

You may determine, in consultation with the SCC, that it is in the student's best interest to go to the nearest emergency room instead of to the counseling center. Involving a family member or a close friend as early as possible in the process can help ensure a less stressful experience for the student by providing emotional support. They can sometimes even serve as an escort.

  • Voluntary: If the student agrees voluntarily, you may determine it is in the student's best interest to go to the nearest emergency room. it is recommended that one of the escorts, family members, or friends stay with the student until they are admitted to a unit.
  • Involuntary: If the student needs hospitalization on an involuntary basis, call the campus police (711), and they will escort the student to nearest emergency room.

Helping a student elsewhere on campus or off campus

  • Should you find yourself on the phone talking to a student whom you suspect may be considering suicide, there are important steps you can take to assess the immediacy of the situation. You can directly ask if they are thinking about killing themself. Professionals assess suicide potential, in part by asking:
  • What the plan for suicide is — exactly how will they do it? Do they have access to a means such as pills or a weapon?
  • When and where they intend to carry out the plan?
  • If they’ve ever attempted suicide before. If yes, how and when.
  • Other Useful Interventions:
  • Consult with the Student Counseling Center at 410-328-8404 during working hours
  • Ask to speak to anyone else who may be present with that person, or call the student’s emergency contact
  • Call 711 (on campus) or 911 (off campus)
  • Refer them to a local emergency room
  • Consult with relevant emergency hotlines in the student’s current location

For further assistance

  • Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m., call the UM Student Counseling Center at 410-328-8404. After 5 p.m., weekends or holidays, call Student Health at 410-328-8792. Calls are received by Family Medicine attending physicians who will advise and triage. Additionally refer to Urgent Care Contacts.

[Portions adapted from George Mason University Counseling and Psychological Services]

Assisting Students in Distress Folder

The Assisting Student in Distress Folder is a quick reference guide that helps identify common signs of student distress and directs faculty and staff through campus protocol to clarify whom they should contact in the event of an emergency. The folder also provides tips for how to approach a student who may be in distress and resources on campus and off campus. 

If you would like a counselor from the UMB Student Counseling Center to come to your office to provide a presentation for faculty or staff, please call 410-328-8404. Presentations typically last one hour, which breaks down to 45 minutes to go over the material and 15 minutes for question and answer. The folder will be provided during the presentation. 

To download a copy, click here: ‌Assisting Students in Distress Folder

Kognito (online training modules)

UMB faculty and staff have access to a unique set of online training modules that will allow users to practice appropriate responses to students in distress. These modules will assist users to better identify, support, and refer these students to resources on campus and in Baltimor.

To get started, please go to this website: https://md.kognito.com/.

Click here for a short video introduction.

‌‌‌‌‌‌Kognito image: At-risk for faculty and staff Kognito image: Veterans on campus LGBTQ on campus