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  • Definition of Crisis

    WHAT IS A CRISIS?

    A psychological crisis is a life event that an individual perceives as stressful to the extent that normal coping mechanisms are insufficient. The SBIT Team is determined to be the forefront of providing individual counseling, guidance, and referring students to the most appropriate resources available both on campus and off campus.
    Types of Crises
     

  •  Aberrant Behavior

    Irrational or inappropriate behavior causing disruption in or outside the classroom, i.e., inappropriate focusing of attention on self in class, going on and on about personal life in class, repeatedly taking class focus off track.

    Ask to speak to student privately and confidentially. Indicate concern for the student’s welfare and ask what started his/her reaction. Listen and determine whether the student needs to be referred to counseling for further assessment. When the time is right, state your rules for acceptable behavior in the class and set limits. If disruptive behavior continues, after a warning, the matter should be referred to the Office of Student Rights, Responsibilities and advocacy. (718) 482-5180


     Abuse: Physical or Sexual

    If a student starts to tell you that he/she has suffered abuse, as a child (while under the age of 18) stop the student from revealing this unless he/she is willing to have the information reported to the authorities. The law requires that a report be made to the authorities which identifies the perpetrator, especially if he/she is still around children. If the abuse occurred as an adult, a complaint is up to the victim. Please refer the student to a SBIT member or contact a SBIT member to report information.


     Anxiety

    Exaggerated fear of failing, nervousness and difficulty in concentrating, tendency to overreact with fear, or manic talking or frenzied activity. Ask to speak to student privately and confidentially. Indicate concern for the student’s welfare and ask if he/she is aware of the behavior. Listen and determine whether the student needs to be referred to counseling for further assessment. Inform the student that this college has trained professional help available. Refer the student to a crisis counselor for an interview and assistance. If the situation is extreme and the student seems to need immediate help, walk him/her to the counselor’s office for an appointment.

    DO: 

    • Let them discuss their feelings and thoughts. Often this alone relieves a great deal of pressure.
    • Provide reassurance.
    • Remain calm.
    • Be clear and directive.
    • Provide a safe and quiet environment until the symptoms subside.
    • Offer to assist the student in referring her/him for personal counseling.

    DON’T: 

    • Minimize the perceived threat to which the student is reacting.
    • Take responsibility for their emotional state.
    • Overwhelm them with information or ideas to “fix” their condition.

     Delusional Behavior

    Distortion of reality, i.e., belief that they are being singled out, or that they are super special individuals with special gifts or talents, or that the instructor is deliberately mistreating them. Students may also go on and on about becoming a star or going into movies or getting a scholarship to an Ivy League schools, etc.

    Consult with a crisis counselor regarding the student. The counselor can subsequently come to the class on some pretext to observe. An interview can be arranged if the behavior does seem aberrant.


     Depression

    Evidence of Depression: sudden change in interest in class, flattened feelings, sad or fatigued, complaints of insomnia, and loss of desire to be in school or with friends.

    Ask to speak to the student privately and confidentially. Indicate concern for the student’s welfare and ask if he/she is aware of the behavior. Listen and determine whether the student needs to be referred to counseling for further assessment. Inform the student that this college has trained professional help available. Refer the student to a crisis counselor for an interview and assistance. If the situation is extreme and the student seems to need immediate help, walk him/her to the counseling office for an appointment.

    DO: 

    • Let the student know you’re aware she/he is feeling down and you would like to help.
    • Encourage the student to discuss how she/he is feeling with someone they trust.
    • Offer to assist the student in referring him/her for personal counseling.

    DON’T: 

    • Minimize the student’s feelings, e.g., “Don’t worry.” “Everything will be better tomorrow”.
    • Bombard the student with “fix it” solutions or advice.
    • Chastise the student for poor or incomplete work.
    • Be afraid to ask the student whether he/she is suicidal.

     Disobedience, Willful

    Refusing to follow directions or behaving disruptively in class, refusing to leave when asked, refusing to adhere to class rules.

    Ask the person in a calm manner to talk to you privately away from peers. If this fails to produce acceptable behavior, end the class for the day and contact a crisis counselor for assistance. If the student seems to be going out of control, call the campus police to handle it.


     Disorientation

    Somewhat glazed expression, a lack of appropriate affect when talking, difficulty in listening with concentration, literally complains of disorientation, or exhibits chronic self talk, hearing voices, or seeing things that aren’t there.

    Consult with a crisis counselor regarding the student. The counselor can subsequently come to the class on some pretext to observe. An interview can be arranged if the behavior does seem aberrant.

    If the student’s behavior is disrupting class, it may be appropriate to call for immediate assistance.

    DO: 

    • Respond with warmth and kindness, but with firm reasoning.
    • Remove extra stimulation from the environment (turn off the radio, step outside of a noisy classroom).
    • Acknowledge your concerns, state that you can see they need help.
    • Acknowledge their feelings or fears without supporting the misperceptions, e.g., “I understand you think someone is following you, but I don’t see anyone and I believe you’re safe.”
    • Focus on the “here and now”. Ask for specific information about the student’s awareness of time, place and destination.
    • Speak to their healthy side, which they have. It’s OK to laugh and joke when appropriate.

    DON’T: 

    • Argue or try to convince them of the irrationality of their thinking. This commonly produces a stronger defense of the false perceptions.
    • Play along, e.g., “Oh yeah, I hear the voices (or see the devil).”
    • Encourage further discussion of the delusional processes.
    • Demand, command, or order.
    • Expect customary emotional responses.

     Disruptive Behavior

    Cussing or talking loudly, arguing instead of discussing, challenging everything that is presented as wrong, or out of control yelling in anger.

    Take precautions to take care of yourself and others in the situation if the person is behaving menacingly. Ask the student to talk privately away from the group and try to calm him/her down. If the behavior continues out of control, call the campus police and report the matter to the Office of Student Rights, Responsibilities and advocacy. (718) 482-5180

    DO: 

    • Acknowledge their anger and frustration, e.g., “I hear how angry you are.”
    • Rephrase what they are saying and identify their emotion, e.g., “I can see how upset you are because you feel your rights are being violated and nobody will listen.”
    • Reduce stimulation; invite the person to a quiet place if this is comfortable and the place is safe.
    • Allow them to ventilate, get the feelings out, and tell you what is upsetting them; listen.
    • Be directive and firm about the behaviors you will accept, e.g., “Please stand back, you’re too close.” “I cannot listen to you when you yell and scream at me that way.”
    • “Let’s step outside to discuss this further.”
    • Remember: Safety First.
    • Prohibit the student from entering your work area/classroom/office if behavior is repeated.

    DON’T: 

    • Get into an argument or shouting match.
    • Become hostile or punitive, e.g., “You can’t talk to me that way!”
    • Press for explanations for their behavior.
    • Ignore the situation.
    • Touch the student.

     Distraught and Anxious

    A sudden change in attitude from normal to unfocused, preoccupied, or poor performance might be caused by depression. Distress is usually caused by personal problems that seem overwhelming and anxiety is one form of distress that may stem from school related or personal concerns.

    Talk to the student privately by indicating that you have noticed a change in their manner or behavior and inquire if there is something that they might need help with. Often the student will open up, in which case, listen empathetically and suggest that we have services through the counseling department which might help them. Then, refer the student to a crisis counselor. You might consult with the counselor as an intermediary step.

    If the student resists or assures you that there is nothing going on to cause concern, respect his/her judgment and thank them for responding to your inquiry. You might consult with a counselor anyway to note if the student may be simply resisting, and for information for what to observe for in the immediate future which may indicate more serious problems.


     Harassment, General

    A student complains to you that another student has been making demeaning remarks or treating her/him in an unacceptable manner.

    Listen to the student and refer the matter to Office of Student Rights, Responsibilities and advocacy. (718) 482-5180


     Harassment, Sexual

    Sexual harassment involves unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal or physical contact; it is usually found in the context of a relationship of unequal power, rank or status. It does not matter that the person’s intention was not to harass. It is the effect it has on others that counts. As long as the conduct interferes with a student’s academic performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive learning environment, it is considered sexual harassment.

    Sexual harassment usually is not an isolated one-time-only case but a repeated pattern of behavior that may include:

    • Comments about one’s body or clothing.
    • Questions about one’s sexual behavior.
    • Demeaning references to one’s gender.
    • Sexually oriented jokes.
    • Conversations filled with innuendoes and double meanings.
    • Displaying of sexually suggestive pictures or objects.
    • Repeated non-reciprocated demands for dates or sex.

    Sexual Harassment is illegal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972. Common reactions of students who have been harassed is to doubt their perceptions, wondering if it was a joke, did it really happen or, if in some way, they have brought it on themselves. A student may begin to participate less in the classroom, avoid or drop classes, or even change majors.

    DO: 

    • Listen carefully to the student, validating her/his experience.
    • Separate your personal biases from your professional role – maintain objectivity.
    • Report this situation to the Office of Student Rights, Responsibilities and advocacy. (718) 482-5180
    • Encourage the student to keep a log or find a witness.
    • Help student seek informal advice through a department chair, supervisor or advisor.

    DON’T: 

    • Do nothing. Taking no action invalidates the student’s already shaky perception and puts the college in a vulnerable position should this behavior continue.
    • Overreact.

     Misconduct

    Disrupting class with irrelevant talk or disturbing others, occupying areas not meant for loitering, sitting on cafeteria tables, or smoking in prohibited areas.

    If it is a one-time incident, tell the student or students that smoking is prohibited in that area. If one persists, talk privately to the person and indicate that a referral to the Office of Student Rights, Responsibilities and advocacy. (718) 482-5180 will become necessary if he/she persists. Please report misconduct resulting in Injury or Damage to Property Throwing objects, applying graffiti, scratching cars, smashing plants, etc. to the campus police (718) 482-5555


     Performance Change

    Difficulty in concentrating, freezing up on tests, or chronic personal problems which distract him/her from adequate academic performance.

    Discuss the problem and explore the nature of the concerns together. Personal problems may be resolved with information to manage them, e.g., in the case of test anxiety, a short term course on test taking may be needed. However, difficulty in concentrating may be caused by concerns that may pass or could indicate more serious problems. If it seems to be the latter, a referral to a crisis counselor would be in order. Always provide follow-up sessions to show support for the student’s well being.


     Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

    Post traumatic stress disorder occurs when a person suffers an unexpected psychological shock.

    Many throughout the country suffered this after the 9/11 attack. The symptoms can be insomnia with flashbacks, unexplained anxiety, mild depression, exaggerated vigilance for danger, and/or withdrawal from normal activities. Assault victims, or even the witness of a tragic incident can cause traumatic stress. Many may suffer this from involvement with our war on Iraq.

    Unusual fears or anxiety during this war period may be symptoms of traumatic stress disorder and could benefit from counseling. Consult with a SBIT Member to determine what might help, i.e., coming to class to discuss reactions to the war and the violence or fear of terrorist attacks, or seeing students for individual counseling.


     Rape

    Listen supportively and observe for quality of state of mind, i.e., depressed, suicidal potential, anxiety or rage. Advise of the right to file a complaint. Inform him/her of rape victim support services.


     Substance Abuse

    Alcohol is the most widely used psychoactive drug. It is common to find alcohol abusers in college populations also abusing other drugs, both prescription and illicit. Patterns of use are affected by fads and peer pressure. Currently, alcohol is the preferred drug on college campuses.

    The effects of alcohol on the user are well known to most of us. Alcohol abuse by a student is most often identified by faculty. Irresponsible, unpredictable behavior affecting the learning situation (i.e., drunk and disorderly in class), or a combination of the health and social impairments associated with alcohol abuse noticeably sabotages student performance.

    Because of denial that exists in most substance abusers, it is important to express your concern to the student in terms of specific changes in behavior/performance rather than terms of suspicions about alcohol/drug abuse.

    DO: 

    • Confront the student with the behavior that is of concern
    • Address the substance abuse issue if the student is open and willing.
    • Offer concern for the student’s overall well-being.
    • Refer student to Counseling Center or Office of Student Rights, Responsibilities and advocacy. (718) 482-5180

    DON’T: 

    • Convey judgment or criticism about the student’s substance abuse.
    • Make allowances for the student’s irresponsible behavior.
    • Ignore signs of intoxication in the classroom.

     Suicide Potential

    Always take threats seriously and get help immediately. Listen supportively and contact the Office of Student Rights, Responsibilities and advocacy. (718) 482-5180. The general suicide hotline number is 1-800-784-2433/ (212) 673-3000/ 1-800-999-9999/ 1-800-273-8255 Ask the student for the names of individuals who can follow up observing this person through the next day. If suicide seems imminent, ask if he/she is willing to commit himself/herself to a mental health hospital for observation and treatment. If the person is not willing, consider whether or not to call the campus police at ext. 5555

    DO: 

    • Take the student seriously — 80 percent of suicides give a warning of their intent.
    • Be direct — ask if the student is suicidal, if he/she has a plan and if he/she has the means to carry out that plan. Exploring this with the student actually decreases the impulse to use it.
    • Be available to listen.
    • Advise District Police if threat of suicide is imminent.

    DON’T: 

    • Assure the student that you are his/her best friend; agree you are a stranger, but even strangers can be concerned.
    • Be overly warm and nurturing.
    • Flatter or participate in their games; you don’t know their rules.
    • Be cute or humorous.
    • Challenge or agree with any mistaken or illogical beliefs.
    • Be ambiguous.

     The Demanding Passive Student

    Typically, even the utmost time and energy given to these students is not enough. They often seek to control your time and unconsciously believe the amount of time received is a reflection of their worth. You may find yourself increasingly drained and feeling responsible for this student in a way that is beyond your normal involvement. It is important that this student be connected with many resources of support on-campus and in the community in general.

    DO: 

    • Let them make their own decisions.
    • Set firm and clear limits on your personal time and involvement.
    • Offer referrals to other resources on and off campus.
    • During repeated interactions, stand while speaking with student; limit discussion to 3 minutes.

    DON’T: 

    • Get trapped into giving advice, special conditions, etc.
    • Avoid the student as an alternative to setting and enforcing limits.

     The Violent Student

    Violence, because of emotional distress, is rare and typically occurs when the student’s level of frustration has been so intense or of such an enduring nature as to erode all of the student’s emotional controls. The adage, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” best applies here. This behavior is often associated with the use of alcohol and other drugs.

    DO: 

    • Prevent total frustration and helplessness by quickly and calmly acknowledging the intensity of the situation, e.g., “I can see you’re really upset.”
    • Explain clearly and directly what behaviors are acceptable, e.g., “You certainly have the right to be angry, but breaking things is not okay.”
    • Stay safe; maintain easy access to a door; keep furniture between you and the student.
    • Immediately seek assistance; contact School Campus Safety at (718) 482-5555 or the Office of Student Rights, Responsibilities and advocacy. (718) 482-5180

    DON’T: 

    • Ignore warning signs that the person is about to explode, e.g., yelling, screaming, clenched fists, threats.
    • Threaten or corner the student.
    • Touch the student.

     Traumatic Incident Stress

    Death in the family, spousal abuse, being evicted, being fired, loss of a pregnancy, death of a class member, divorce, etc.

    Approach the student privately before or after class and indicate your concern. In some cases, the student may approach you to reveal that he/she was absent due to something you see as traumatic. This allows you a means of inquiring how the student is coping with the situation. Indicate to the student that this incident may be more serious than it appears and offer the resources of our crisis counseling services. If a student in the class dies, you can contact a member of the Student Behavioral Intervention Team to determine the best way to support other students in the class.


  • AND ALWAYS REMEMBER TO REFER STUDENTS TO ONE OF THE SBIT MEMBERS OR TO THE OFFICE OF STUDENT RIGHTS, RESPONSIBILITIES, AND ADVOCACY. (718) 482-5180

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