Role of Departments and Departmental Counselors

Department lecturers, because of their close contact with students, are in a unique position to notice students who might be distressed and struggling. An expression of interest and concern from the right person at the right time can make all the difference in the world. College should be, at different points, exciting, overwhelming, challenging and stressful. Ideally that stress is balanced with support, in the forms of teaching, advising, friendship, mentorship and other kinds of help. The vast majority of students with psychological difficulties will be able to have successful and productive academic careers, with appropriate support and intervention. We offer the following guidelines about helping students:

  • Trust your gut.If you experience a sense of unease or concern about a student, it is important to pay attention to your inner signals.
  • Use your common sense.You don’t need to be able to officially diagnose someone with Major Depression to know that they are in trouble.
  • Listen carefully.It takes time and close attention to determine that the student who comes in ostensibly to talk about changing their major also wants to talk about their sense of confusion and/or isolation at Skidmore. Sometimes important information will emerge over time as the student begins to know and trust you.
  • Intervene sooner rather than later.It is tempting to hope that difficult situations will resolve themselves. Some do, but in our experience, early intervention is both easier and more effective.
  • Know your limits.Different faculty members will have different roles in students’ lives. Being a teacher, advisor and mentor does not mean being a therapist or caretaker.
  • Consult with colleagues.As more college students appear to be suffering from more serious types of mental illnesses, they will present with more acute needs, more overwhelming symptoms and more complicated family and life circumstances. We all need support and help to work with these students. The Counseling Center encourages and welcomes calls and contacts from lectures about situations of concerns