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If you suspect a student has serious mental health issues...

(16 Posts)
Poofus Mon 09-May-16 13:54:00

...what do you do?

I haven't really encountered this before - I've only dealt with supporting students who have existing mental health diagnoses, or who have come to me about mental health problems (eg stress, anxiety) themselves. In those cases I would point them to the counselling service, help arrange extensions etc. But how (if at all) do you bring this up with a student who has never mentioned anything of the kind?

Thanks very much for advice.

MaddyHatter Mon 09-May-16 13:57:47

I have no idea.. talk to the SENCO perhaps?

Poofus Mon 09-May-16 14:13:29

Sorry to be dim - what's a SENCO?

Cocoabutton Mon 09-May-16 14:28:06

I think general how are you coping discussion, without saying you think they have x, y or z condition. But also, remember you are dealing with adults, so unless you think they are a danger to themselves or others, your room for manoeuvre is limited. Does your uni have a crisis team?

I am guessing SENCO is a school level role, where I work the people I would ask, in the first instance, are the Disability Service for advice without naming the student. If the student has an academic advisor, you can also raise your concerns in confidence with them. If you are the academic advisor, go up the ladder for advice.

On a more general level, make sure information about support services is available in easily accessible places - i.e. not in the back page of a course handbook etc.

Sorry if no help, responding quickly on phone!

purplepandas Mon 09-May-16 14:31:13

I would contact student support personally and ask their advice re this. It's a tricky one isn't it.

scribblegirl Mon 09-May-16 14:32:01

Im not an academic but saw this on Active. I don't know the correct route but please do follow the channels and get it flagged. My best friend's sister (very academic) killed herself after her finals. Watching her tutors cry at the funeral (the day after it was discovered she had got a first) was so heart wrenching, even before considering her devastated family.

Thank you for being so aware and insightful flowers

Poofus Mon 09-May-16 14:56:59

Thanks for the advice! Yes, contacting disability advisory service might be the way to go. My concerns are actually not about how the student is coping (he is always cheerful) but instead that there is something psychologically really wrong - based on several pieces of submitted work which contains some really odd and irrelevant content. So it's not a stress/anxiety type problem I suspect, or anything that would be a suicide risk, but more a matter of the student's brain not working very typically AT ALL. And it seems to be getting more pronounced. Does that make sense? I'm not sure if I should just mind my own business.

fluffikins Mon 09-May-16 15:39:45

We ping cases like this straight to student support!

Cocoabutton Mon 09-May-16 18:42:46

If it is apparent to you in coursework content, as you suggest, you can legitimately ask how the student finds responding to the question, structuring an answer etc. in a feedback session if you have them face to face and recommend teaching and learning support (whatever that is called where you are). Our student learning service will meet with students one to one. You can also bring concerns to academic advisor's knowledge.

Though the only time I have done this, academic advisor was already aware of concerns, but student did not wish to pursue additional support. I just then gave what advice I could in feedback sessions.

I am assuming you mean something like dyslexia or dyspraxia, though, which I would see as a learning issue and not a mental health one.

Rollinginthevalley Mon 09-May-16 21:11:46

I once had to deal with a student whose essays were increasingly out of control & full of implied violence against women. It was awful. I referred the essays to the Student Counselling service, and was never ever alone with him, and warned my colleagues, one of whom had also had a frightening experience in person with this student. He dropped out, I think - I suspect he had a personality disorder.

Poofus Tue 10-May-16 16:15:12

Actually I mean something much closer to what RollingintheValley mentions -although with no implied harm to anyone in the content!

The student has already had several academic support meetings, with me and other colleagues, based on poor performance in essays last year, but that was to deal with how to structure an essay, cite references, etc, which he appear to have understood well and he produced some decent draft work. However, he has since then produced some submitted "essays" in which the content bears no relation to the question, course or degree, and which do not conform to any of the standards expected (vastly over word limit, no citations, more a stream of consciousness on entirely unrelated issues about which he obviously feels strongly). This, to my mind, suggests he is becoming increasingly unhinged, and I'm really unsure how to approach him.

Rollinginthevalley Tue 10-May-16 20:28:34

Drugs? Or a form of psychosis or schizophrenia? But that's less likely than substance abuse.

Needs referring. All you can do is push him a bit about the content of the essay, and see if he opens up. And then recommend he seeks help. Most universities will have someone who's expert in substance abuse.

Make sure your door is open & there's a colleague nearby.

Cocoabutton Wed 11-May-16 06:59:25

Yes regarding the door and colleague. I was thinking about this post and my honest recommendation is limit your involvement, that is what support services are for. All you can do is as Rolling says regarding the essay and even then, if you are a lecturer, I would be tempted to pass it up the ladder.

nooka Wed 11-May-16 07:21:01

I'm involved with this sort of thing at work (at a university but not in the UK) and this is very much the sort of issue that we encourage everyone to speak up about. In our university structure we have a case manager in our student services department who would be the first port of call.

This helpful one page guide isn't from my university but I'm currently looking at adapting it. Sounds like your student is exhibiting distressing behaviour (as you are not concerned about aggression or self harm). You could ask to have a chat with him, and use the same sort of format as the purely academic support meetings last year. If you are anxious about unpredictable behaviour then involve a colleague or just make sure you are in a highly observable space. He might open up then in which case you can suggest he goes to counseling.

If that feels too uncomfortable then do report your concerns to your student services department or equivalent. I know that in my university we really prefer over to under reporting, and often we'll find that someone else somewhere in the system (we have regular meetings of residence managers, security, counseling, disabilities services and other key people) has also noticed something not quite right and so decide to invite the student to come in and have a chat. Works really well to address this type of issue which unaddressed can lead to significant issues. I get the impression it's a fairly common approach.

murmuration Sun 15-May-16 10:44:58

Student services or support or counselling or whatever it is called where you are. You can speak to them in confidence, and they can usually contact the student and ask for a meeting. I usually direct students to student support if I'm concerned, but if they appear to not be helping themselves, I will contact student support and let them know my concerns.

I once had an extremely bizzare exam answer (nothing to do with the question and more like a personal journal entry) and student support were able to break the anominity on the question and call the student in for help.

Greenandmighty Wed 01-Jun-16 08:10:53

You need to ensure you see this student only in a public area, ie library and never on one to one basis alone. Please pass on your concerns immediately to Student Services and they can verify procedure for getting mental health support for this student. He will need to be challenged by a professional counsellor or similar about content of his essays.

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