Center for Personal and Professional Development

For Faculty & Staff

Students who are struggling with adjustment to the demands of a vigorous academic program may often approach professors and staff members with their concerns.  As the leaders and authority figures in students’ lives, you may often be called upon to address the needs of students who are in distress- academically, socially and emotionally.
 
Many students experience struggles with adjustment to the major life transitions involved in undertaking a graduate degree; these might include staying on top of an intense workload, maintaining focus and motivation, feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt, anxiety regarding academic performance, and managing feelings of loss and separation from friends and family they may have left to attend their program.  
 
Professors and staff may be the first to notice the outward signals of these internal struggles, and as a first response, provide them with a link to resources like the Center for Personal and Professional Development and other campus resources to support and help students in their functioning and success.
 
If you feel a student is in crisis and potentially at risk for harm, please do not hesitate to contact Campus Security at 215-780-1401.

 
FAQs
What is a mental health crisis?
The definition of ‘crisis’ is often variable and subjective; it is dependent on the uniqueness of each individual and multiple factors including coping skills, life experience, cultural background, etc. However, we may generally define an emotional crisis as when the intensity of an internal stress response overwhelms the capacity of an individual’s coping skills in that moment. It is especially important to respond to these critical moments when the individual experiences:
  • major disruption in ability to function (activities of daily living)
  • suicidal/homicidal thoughts or impulses;  
  • assault -sexual or physical;  
  • hearing voices/misperceiving reality;  
  • an overwhelming loss or tragedy  
How do I make a referral to Center for Personal and Professional Development (CPPD)?
Inform the student that a resource exists on campus that may help them to manage the struggles they are experiencing. Provide our contact information as well as encouragement to connect with support for success! Be sure to mention any good experiences you have had in the past with referring to us.
It might also be helpful to assist the student in making the first contact with CPPD.  Perhaps you can escort your student to our office during open hours. You might simply agree with the student to send us an introductory email and cc them on the introduction. We can take care of it from there.
 
For more information about how or when to refer a student, you can always contact Center for Personal and Professional Development for consultation 215-780-1378.

What can I expect after referring a student to Center for Personal and Professional Development (CPPD)?
It may never be necessary for you to have direct communication with CPPD about a particular student. Part of our mission is to provide a safe and confidential space for students to share about and understand themselves. This information can be very personal and we assure the strictest tenets of confidentiality in working with students.

That said, there may be unique situations in which the work we do with our students may benefit from consult with important people in the student’s life. This may include loved ones, family members, and other professionals like doctors or faculty and administration. In such a circumstance, the student will be asked to sign consent paperwork providing permission to speak with those persons so that collaboration may take place. Faculty and staff may certainly follow up with CPPD counselors if they have questions; however it should be understood that if a student does not grant permission, no contact may take place. In cases involving urgent or emergency situations this restriction may not be required, subject to our counselors’ discretion.

What to do if a student is having a “break down” or “panic attack"?
Know that panic attacks are not dangerous.  Panic is not life threatening and cannot lead to heart attack or “going crazy”. They are often fairly short-lived as well; most episodes take the affected individual 10-20 minutes to calm and recover from.

Some tips for helping a student who is experiencing panic:
  • Stay with the student and stay calm.
  • Do not advise or tell the student how to feel; rather, ask for what they need and reassure that you are present and willing to support them.
  • If possible, help the student get to a quiet place.
  • Speak to the student in brief, calming statements. "you can get through this, I am going to help you stay safe". "let's focus on taking one breath at a time".
  • Help the student slow down breathing by controlling their breath.  For example, hold a deep breath for a few seconds before slowly releasing it and repeating the process numerous times. You can demonstrate this with your own breath.
  • You may also help the student by providing something for them to focus on; like the sound of your voice describing the objects in the room, or simply counting breaths.
After the student has calmed, offer to contact their supports or refer them to on campus resource like CPPD.

If a student is expressing thoughts of suicide, what should I do?
Referring the student to our services is usually the best course of action in these cases. If you are concerned about the student's immediate safety, please contact Campus Security at 215-780-1401. A person who is expressing suicidal thoughts needs evaluation and support as soon as possible.

This website includes suggestions for how to respond to a person who might express thoughts of suicide.