Please note that the information in the following pages is meant to act as a guide.

This content is meant to offer the tools to navigate difficult conversations; no faculty or staff member is expected to assess or diagnose a student's struggles. For additional concerns or questions, faculty and staff are always welcome to contact UMLCS for an opportunity to consult.

Consider referring students for counseling if their problems have compromised their ability to function academically, personally or socially. Some signs and symptoms of student distress are procrastination and poorly prepared work, infrequent class attendance, social withdrawal, crying in the office, marked changes in person hygiene, impaired speech or disjointed thoughts, threats to harm oneself or others, disturbing material in academic assignments and high levels of irritability.

Tips for Referring a Student to Counseling Services

  • Talk to the student in private.
  • Specifically state your reasons for concern.
  • Keep the focus on the actions or behaviors of that student which cause you concern.
  • Listen carefully.
  • Avoid criticizing or sounding judgmental.
  • Discuss with the student a referral to UMass Lowell Counseling Services (UMLCS). Find out if the student is aware of counseling resourced at UMass Lowell and refer students to our website for more information.
  • If the student is receptive, suggest that they contact UMLCS for an appointment. Direct them to our website for more information.
  • It may be helpful to offer to call UMLCS while the student is in your office to help them arrange an appointment.

If the Student is Reluctant to Seek Counseling

  • Be direct in letting the student know that you believe a counselor would be of help in this situation.
  • Inform the student that UMLCS services are strictly confidential and free.
  • Assure the student that it is acceptable to schedule a single appointment just to find out more information. Meeting with a counselor once does not lock them into a commitment to on-going counseling.
  • Point out that a situation does not have to reach crisis proportions for them to benefit from counseling.
  • Acknowledge, validate and discuss the students' real fears and concerns about seeking help.
  • Emphasize that it takes a great deal of courage to seek counseling.
  • Don't force the issue if the student resists - simply restate your concerns and recommendations.

If the Student Refuses Help

While it is important to care about the emotional well-being of students, we cannot make their decisions for them and an independent decision by the student to seek help is best. If the student resists referral with the situation and you remain comfortable, feel free to contact UMLCS to discuss your concern. You can also submit a STARs report online.

For more information on students of concern, check out the UMatter2 website.

For tips on how to support student-athletes, please see For Coaches.

Content adapted with permission from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.