Students with Mental Health Challenges
Faculty and staff sometimes wonder if a student has a mental
health challenge* that he/she is coping with in addition to the pressures of being
in college. Often students will disclose personal information to faculty/staff because
of the safety and professionalism offered by SRJC personnel. Students also tend to
talk to faculty/staff because they feel more comfortable speaking with someone they
know. Other students come to the attention of faculty/staff when their behavior deteriorates
from a previously higher level of functioning or when their behavior deviates markedly
from their peers. Therefore, faculty/staff at SRJC often play a critical role in
connecting students to additional resources and providing needed support.
The stress of college can initiate or exacerbate mental health
symptoms. For the student who has no history of mental health challenges, the pressure
of performance on tests, homework, and the social performance demands can overwhelm
students’ coping strategies, especially if the student is already dealing with
multiple external stressors. Likewise, students with a history of mental health challenges
may experience a resurgence of symptoms under the pressures of school. However, please
keep in mind that every semester hundreds of SRJC students with mental health challenges
are enrolled and academically successful.
Observation alone is not enough to determine if a student has
an on-going mental health challenge; possibly, the student is having a bad day or
a bad week due a situational life stressor. The purpose of this page is to provide
SRJC faculty/staff resources to assist a student, whether that student is dealing
with situational life stressors or chronic mental health challenges.
The following table provides a list of behaviors that may indicate
the student has a mental health challenge.
*The term “mental health challenge” can be used interchangeably
with “mental health diagnosis.” In addition, the terms “mental
health disability” or “psychological disability” are used when
a person’s mental health diagnosis results in limitations of functioning. Outdated,
pathologizing terms such as “mental
illness” place a person in a one-down role, submissive to the medical system.
It is important to be aware that social stigma about mental health issues is often
conveyed inadvertently through language; for example, pathologizing terms such as
||Possible Signs & Symptoms
||What you can do
Nervous or anxious
Mildly angry or irritable
Procrastination, poor quality of work, especially if inconsistent with previous
Lack of energy, fatigue, falling asleep in class
Somewhat impaired speech or
Excessive weight gain/loss
Talk to the student and express your concerns
(1) share with them the behavior
(2) express your concern for the student’s wellbeing,
the student resources, perhaps by walking
the student to Student
Psychological Services. The Yellow
SPS services. Faxing the Yellow
Card Referral Form allows you to give SPS
information about why you are concerned about the student.
If needed, discuss what the student needs to do to be successful
in the class.
Listen, without judgment and connect the student to their support system and other
resources. Protect distressed students from harmful interactions with their peers
by creating a safe learning environment for all students by stating clear behavioral
guidelines outlined in the syllabus.
Repeated requests for special consideration
for due dates/absences
Excessive talking in class
Irritable or aggressive behavior
Dependency (the student who wants excessive time with faculty/staff)
Sleeping in class
Not following staff/faculty directives
For disruptive attendance/class participation:
set limits for appropriate behavior
Give the student a verbal warning that
the behavior is disruptive and state the behavior that you expect of the student;
for example, “Please
write your question down, I need to give other students a chance to ask questions.”
dependency issues: determine how much time it is appropriate for you to
be available to the student, communicate that boundary to the student, and refer
the student to SPS if he/she needs more support. If they cannot respect this boundary,
consider a referral to student
discipline for violation of Section M of the Student
For hygiene issues: inform the student of how strong smells
can be disruptive to the learning environment; if necessary, dismiss the student.
For the sleeping student: wake the student up to determine if the student is
under the influence, check in with them privately with concern for their welfare,
set limits for appropriate behavior in class.
For not following directives: state
the behavior you expect (e.g. “we can continue this conversation if you lower your voice”),
if the student continues to not comply, give a verbal warning (e.g. “I need
you to lower your voice or you will be suspended from class”), if the student
persists, see the dangerous/dysregulated section below.
Please keep in mind that
all students need to follow the Student
Verbally expressed suicidal
Written suicidal statements (e.g. e-mail, papers)
For the suicidal student: Contact
the student, express your concern, and connect the student to Student Psychological
Call SPS Monday through Friday during business hours (524-1595), and/or walk the
student to SPS. After hours, call District Police (527-1000). It may be that resources
need to be mobilized to check on the student’s welfare even when off campus.
Listen with care and express your concern for the student’s well-being. If
needed, call CIRT for a consultation.
|Bizarre behavior (e.g. responding to stimuli that
is not present)
||Bizarre behavior is usually a sign of internal
dysregulation rather than dangerousness; however, the student should be professionally
assessed for his/her ability to take care of his/her basic needs/safety. Refer the
student to SPS or call District Police for this assessment. If a student exhibits
non-threatening delusional behavior, it is not useful to debate the student’s
belief system; instead, simply state that you have a different perspective. It can
be difficult for a person in the grips of a psychotic thought process to have insight
about what is going on internally; therefore, it may be helpful to externalize the
student’s problem (e.g. “I’d like to get you some support for all
the stress you have going on in your life right now.”)
Not following staff/faculty directives
Always document the incident.
Depending on the
nature/severity of the threat or noncompliance, either
(1) Call District Police: 527-1000
(2) Consider a referral for discipline for any violations of the Student Conduct Code
How Frequent are Mental Health Challenges for SRJC Students?
According to the 2010 National College Health Assessment survey
of 1090 SRJC students, the majority of SRJC students are experiencing challenges
to their mental health and well-being. For example, 66% of SRJC students reported
multiple areas of their life were “traumatic or very difficult to handle” (e.g.
finances, academics, intimate relationships, family relationships, career related
issues, sleep difficulties). More than half of the sample reported that in the past
year they felt either overwhelmed by their tasks (77%), exhausted (not from physical
activity, 74%), very lonely (53%), very sad (61%), overwhelming anxiety (51%), overwhelming
anger (45%), or that things were hopeless (50%). Therefore, it is the normative experience
for our students to have difficulty coping with their life stressors.
Despite these intense mental challenges, a minority of SRJC students
(23%) sought treatment for a mental health concern in the last year. For those students
who did seek treatment, anxiety and depression were the most commonly reported diagnoses.
Individual, couples, group, substance abuse,
Spanish language, and drop-in counseling provided. SPS also provides psychiatric
services for students in counseling.
||Clinical services, health counseling, and education
are provided by Nurse Practitioners, Physicians, and Medical Assistants.
||For assistance with disability management and
academic accommodations. Many students do not know that psychological disabilities
qualify them for DRD services.
Mental Health Providers
Issue Specific Services
Sliding scale psychotherapy resources:
Self-help Support & Advocacy: