Students encounter a range of challenges during their educational experiences at the University of Georgia. While many students cope successfully with stressors and demands, for some, addressing difficulties can become overwhelming and unmanageable. UGA faculty and staff members interact with students on a daily basis and may be the first ones to recognize a student’s emotional distress or come into contact with a student reaching out for help. The ability to recognize signs of potential difficulty and assist a student in obtaining appropriate care may have a significant impact on a student’s academic and personal well-being.
CAPS is available to provide support and consultation to faculty and staff members who may be concerned about a student’s welfare. CAPS collaborates with the campus community to develop:
- Effective and efficient responses to students experiencing mental health concerns or crises.
- Programming aimed at promoting student mental health and reducing stigma.
- Training to address faculty and staff needs related to student mental health and development.
Frequently Asked Questions
What should I do if I think a student is at risk for harm to self or others or there is some other kind of emergency?
- Contact the UGA Police Department at (706) 542-2200 in any emergency situation.
- Remain calm and avoid any verbal or nonverbal contact that may escalate a student’s distress.
What should I do if a student is in crisis and has urgent needs, but the situation is not an emergency?
- If you are aware of a student who is in crisis or who has urgent needs, please call CAPS at (706) 542-2273.
- If you are with the student, call CAPS with the student present.
- Consider accompanying the student to CAPS.
- No appointment is necessary for students experiencing acute distress.
Who can I contact for consultation if I am worried about a student’s behavior?
- During regular business hours you may contact CAPS at (706) 542-2273 and ask to speak to a walk-in clinician or a member of the CAPS leadership team. CAPS can discuss your concerns and offer suggestions for referring a student.
- After hours you may contact the UGA Police Department at (706) 542-2200 and ask to speak to the CAPS on-call clinician. A dispatcher will page the on-call clinician who will contact you to discuss your concerns.
How do I know if I should consult with CAPS?
It may be time to consult with CAPS if:
- You are overwhelmed by a student’s needs and expectations for your time and attention.
- Your concern about a student is interfering with your personal life.
- You feel you are acting as a therapist for a student.
- You feel afraid of or for the student.
- There is any time you are concerned about a student and aren’t sure what to do.
How do I know if a student is experiencing mental health concerns and would benefit from a referral to CAPS?
Not all students who experience difficulties necessarily need a referral to CAPS. All students experience distress from time to time and may react to a particular stressor or situation in a manner that is normal and expected.
You may consider making a referral to CAPS if you observe that the student:
- Feels that s/he lacks control of the situation.
- Reacts with primarily negative feelings.
- Responds to stressors in a manner that is intense and/or chronic.
- Behaves in way that seems inappropriate or irrational for the situation.
- Has impaired daily functioning.
- Demonstrates difficulty with effective coping or is in engaging in potentially harmful coping behaviors.
- Lacks the ability to problem solve.
- Identifies a minimal or limited support system.
You may consider making a referral to CAPS if you notice one or more of the following indicators, especially if you observe several of these signs, and they are significant changes:
- Irregular sleep
- Restlessness or agitation
- Increase in frequency of illness
- Frequent headaches, muscle aches
- Sudden noticeable weight loss or weight gain
- Excessive worry
- Impaired speech
- Impaired judgement
- Trouble concentrating
- Difficulty with memory
- Perseverative unwanted thoughts
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Rage, anger, or irritability
- Frustration or impatience
- Increased emotional reactivity
- Significant crying or tearfulness
- Avoidance, isolation, or withdrawal
- Difficulty coping with routine demands
- Feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, or helplessness
- Excessive absences
- Conflicts with others
- Threats of physical violence
- Changes in personal hygiene
- Increase in risk taking behavior
- Abuse of alcohol or other drugs
- Expression of no reason for living
- Intimidation or harassment of others
- Disorientation, odd, or unusual behavior
- Deterioration in academic performance
- Inappropriate or disruptive classroom behavior
- Unreasonable expectations for time and attention
- Expression of thoughts, plans, or intentions to harm self or others
- Find a private but safe location.
If I suggest to a student that s/he make an appointment with CAPS, how do I know it was done?
- Ask the student if s/he followed through. If you have been thoughtful enough to make the referral, the student will likely feel comfortable sharing with you whether s/he has been to CAPS.
- Students are sometimes reluctant to come to CAPS. It may take several conversations before a student is ready to take this step.
- Due to state laws and professional ethics CAPS cannot provide information without the consent of the student, including whether the student kept an appointment.
What do I do if I have concerns about a student but the situation is not an emergency?
Talk with the student before the concerns potentially turn into a crisis:
- Make sure you can take your time to listen to the student.
- Convey that you care about the student’s wellbeing.
- Ask how you can best support the student while being clear about the limits of your ability to help.
- Do not promise that you will maintain the student’s confidentiality.
- Avoid making assumptions, judgments, or asserting your authority.
- Respect the student’s value system.
- Ask direct questions that are matter-of-fact and objectively based on behaviors.
- Be clear with the student about the behaviors that concern you.
Consider referral to free wellness and prevention programs offered through the University Health Center #BeWellUGA series.
Facilitate a referral to CAPS if it is appropriate:
- Be specific and honest with the student about your recommendations.
- Emphasize that everyone needs assistance from time-to-time and that reaching out for help does not reflect poorly on the student.
- Remind the student that seeking mental health services does not indicate weakness.
- Explain the limits of your expertise, and tell the student that there are resources that can provide help.
- Tell the student that CAPS staff members specialize in working with college students.
- Encourage the student to schedule a Screening appointment at CAPS. You may choose to offer to assist the student in making the appointment.
- Emphasize that CAPS Services usually are confidential and that there is no charge for the initial visit.
- If it is not an emergency or crisis situation, leave the option to seek counseling open. Indicate that you may want to revisit this idea later.
- Recommend that the student go to CAPS if s/he is in distress or is experiencing a crisis situation. You may choose to offer to accompany the student to CAPS. No appointment is needed during regular business hours for students with urgent concerns.
- Agree upon a plan for you to follow-up with the student about your referral.
- Students sometimes are reluctant to come to CAPS. It may take several conversations before a student is ready to take this step.
Keep a record of your interactions with the student and any ongoing observations about the student’s behaviors that concern you.
What are the limits placed on faculty and staff members by a student’s rights to privacy and confidentiality?
- Laws in the state of Georgia and professional ethics prohibit CAPS from providing information about a student without the student’s written consent, including whether the student has kept an appointment.
- You may share with CAPS any information you believe is relevant regardless of whether you know that a student has been to CAPS or plans to come to CAPS.
- A student may share with you whatever information s/he chooses.
If I continue to have concerns about a student even after making a referral to CAPS, what do I do?
You may choose to contact the Student Care and Outreach department of the Office of the Dean of Students at (706) 542-7774 or dos.uga.edu/sco/about. Student Care and Outreach provides individualized assistance to students who are experiencing hardship circumstances and supports faculty and staff in working with students in distress.