UNI faculty and staff members frequently become aware of students who are troubled or distressed. In many cases, a student benefits greatly from supportive listening and advice from a trusted faculty or staff member. In other cases, a faculty or staff member may wish to refer the student for professional counseling.
The UNI Counseling Center is staffed by professional, experienced psychologists and mental health counselors who specialize in working with college students. Located at 103 Student Health Center, we are easily accessible to students.
When to Refer
With many problems, earlier intervention is better. A person who receives appropriate help sooner, rather than later, may be less likely to experience more severe symptoms or problems.
The Following signs may indicate a need to refer a student to the Counseling Center:
- Suicidal thoughts or feelings
- Substance abuse
- Abrupt changes in behavior
- Inappropriate crying
- Outbursts of anger
- Low self-esteem
- Debilitating anxiety
Students could also benefit from counseling if they are having difficulty coping with a loss (e.g., death or relationship breakup), if they have experienced a traumatic incident (e.g., assault or accident), if they have experienced a significant stressor or whenever emotional difficulties interfere with daily functioning. To read more about some of the common mental health problems college students face, visit Ulifeline.com or the Counseling Center's Links.
How to Refer
Consider the following guidelines when talking with a student:
- Talk to the student in a private setting.
- Listen carefully and express your concern.
- Repeat back the essence of what the student tells you.
- Avoid criticizing or sounding judgmental.
- Suggest the Counseling Center as a resource to help the student.
- Inform the student that counseling is confidential and free of charge.
- Suggest that they call or visit the Counseling Center to arrange an initial appointment.
If the student is reluctant to come to the Counseling Center, it may help if you can provide more information.
Counseling can be sharing thoughts and feelings in confidence with a trained counselor who is objective and a good listener. This often is helpful when a person has a decision to make.
- Counseling may help change behaviors in order to deal more effectively with a problem.
- Counseling increases awareness of strengths you can use in coping with life problems.
- Counseling may help by providing certain types of information, or by teaching new skills.
- Counseling may help you to see yourself and others in a different light.
- Sometimes students feel more comfortable if you, or another trusted person, offers to accompany them to the Counseling Center on their first visit.
If the student still resists help and you continue to be worried, contact the Counseling Center to consult with a staff member.
Urgent or Crisis Situations
If you believe that it is an urgent situation, call the Counseling Center at (319)273-2676 and we will consult with you about what to do. In many cases, we will recommend that you send or bring the student to the Counseling Center to meet with an on-duty crisis counselor. If danger is imminent, call 911 (If on campus, dial 9-911).
After regular office hours, call UNI Public Safety at (319)273-2712 and they will contact our on call staff member to consult with you.
Urgent or crisis situations may include, but are not limited to:
- A risk of suicide.
- A threat of harm to others.
- Severely disorganized, psychotic, or out of control behavior.
- Trauma, such as sexual assault or the death or injury of someone close to the student.
Mental Health Counseling is confidential according to state and federal laws. We cannot legally release information about a student to anyone without his or her permission (with specific rare exceptions).
If you wish to be certain that a student makes an appointment, consider having the student call the Counseling Center from your office. We will be able to confirm that the appointment was kept only if the student gives us permission to release that information to you.
Help for Faculty and Staff Members
Employee & Family Resources is the Employee Assistance Program provider for the University of Northern Iowa. Counselors are available by phone for confidential questions and support at any time, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call 800-327-4692 to set up an in-person appointment or speak to a counselor over the phone. In-person appointments are set up quickly with counselors conveniently located near your home or workplace. EFR has a large network of providers so they are able to connect you with a provider most suitable for you and in a location that is most convenient for you.