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Information for Faculty, Administrators, and Staff

We count on you!

As an administrator, faculty, or staff member interacting with students, you are in an excellent position to recognize behavioral changes that characterize the emotionally troubled student. You play a key role in helping students obtain the assistance they need.

Distinguishing between a student in crisis and a student experiencing stress

A student in crisis

If a student is in a mental health crisis, you might see or hear the following:

  • Statements about suicide or death, or attempts at suicide or self-harm
  • Written or verbal threats, or attempted assault or homicide
  • Destruction of property or other criminal acts
  • Extreme anxiety, panic, or uncontrollable crying
  • Inability to communicate (e.g., jumbled, pressured, or slurred speech; disjointed thoughts)
  • Loss of contact with reality (e.g., seeing or hearing things that aren't there, expressing beliefs or behaving in a way that is at odds with reality)
  • Highly disruptive behavior (e.g., hostility, aggression, violence)
How to help when a student is in crisis:

If the student may be in immediate danger (e.g., someone is already injured, has overdosed, is threatening to use a weapon, or is on a ledge, open stairwell, building top, etc.), immediately contact:

  • Campus Response Center   (845) 437-7333  OR
  • Police, Fire, Ambulance  911

If the student is experiencing a mental health crisis and is not in immediate danger, contact Vassar College Counseling Service:

       During Business Hours (M-F, 8:30am-5pm)

  • VCCS counselors provide crisis intervention for students who are experiencing a mental health crisis. During normal business hours, members of the Vassar community may contact the Counseling Service at (845) 437-5700 to request a brief meeting with a counselor to discuss urgent situations. You may also consider walking with the student to the Counseling Service. 
  • We are located in Metcalf House, next to the Old Observatory.

       Outside of Normal Business Hours 

  • When residence houses are open to all students, Protocall, a Counselor-on-Call service, is available during evenings and weekends to discuss urgent situations. Call the Campus Response Center at (845) 437-7333 and ask to speak to the Counselor-on-Call. Protocall counselors are familiar with Vassar policies and are given back-up by VCCS therapists. 

       Other Resources in the Poughkeepsie Area:

    • Mental health professionals are available at all times for crisis intervention, telephone counseling, information, and referrals. 
      • Dutchess County Helpline   (845) 485-9700
      • MidHudson Regional Hospital  (845) 483-5000

A student in distress

Stress is a part of every student's life. 
However, there are some indicators that, when present over time, suggest that a student's stress level may be a cause for concern. In these circumstances, you might see or hear the following:

  • Uncharacteristic changes in academic performance
  • Uncharacteristic changes in attendance at class or meetings
  • Depressed mood
  • Hyperactivity and/or rapid speech
  • Social withdrawal
  • Increased alcohol or drug use
  • Marked change in dress, hygiene, or weight
  • Repeatedly falling asleep in class
  • Requests for extensions or special considerations or accommodations
  • New or recurrent behavior that interferes with the effective management of your class, work team, etc.
  • Unusual or exaggerated emotional response to events
How to help a student experiencing psychological distress:

When you have determined that a student may be struggling due to psychological distress, we suggest the following guidelines for making a referral:

  • Talk to the student privately and express your concerns directly. This may help minimize embarrassment and defensiveness.
  • Be honest and specific about your concerns. Explain why you want to talk. Example: "I am really worried about how you are doing. I want to try to understand what is going on for you. "
  • Describe your observations in a non-judgmental way. Example: "For the past two weeks, I’ve noticed that you seem sleepy in class, participate less than you used to, and have missed classes.”
  • Express your feelings. Example: "I’m concerned about you."
  • Listen to what the student tells you.
  • Offer your recommendations. If you have determined that a student might benefit from professional counseling, we suggest the following guidelines:
  • Anticipate student’s concerns and fears about seeking counseling. Be prepared to discuss them.
  • Tell the student how to contact the Counseling Service
    • Have the student call (845) 437-5700 or stop by Metcalf House to make an appointment with the next available counselor. If it is an urgent situation, help the student identify the need to speak with the Crisis Counselor and inform the receptionist of who made the referral (faculty, staff, administrator).

You don’t have to do it alone!

If you are unsure about how to handle a specific situation with a student, we encourage you to consult with one of the mental health professionals on our staff. Call us at (845) 437-5700, tell our administrative assistant who you are (faculty, staff, administrator), and ask to speak with one of our counselors. A brief consultation may help you sort out the relevant issues and explore various approaches.

If you are not comfortable talking with a student directly or a student is unwilling to follow your referral recommendations, it is important that you share your concern with others. 

The Student Support Network (SSN)

The SSN Team meets regularly to proactively identify, support, and monitor students who are exhibiting elevated levels of distress, academic or residential life disruption, other significant mental or physical health issues, or becoming a risk of harming themselves or others.

Alert the Student Support Network team about your concern by clicking on the link on the right side of our website or by visiting their site at

Also, take a moment to review our handout about how to handle specific challenging situations involving students.

Quick Facts about the Counseling Service

  • There is no charge for our services.
  • Services are confidential (see A Note to Our Clients for an explanation of our policies) and records are NOT part of students’ academic records.
  • The Counseling Service uses a brief counseling model.
  • 20-25% of current students use the Counseling Service each year.
  • More than half of graduating seniors have contact with the Counseling Service some time in their years at Vassar College.
  • We are in Metcalf House and open M-F, 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM during the academic year.
  • Our 24-hour/day Protocall (Counselor-on-Call service) is available outside of normal business hours for emergency consultation. Protocall is only available during the academic year when residence houses are open to all students.