CAPS receives many telephone calls from members of the University who are concerned about students in emotional distress. The communication link is vital because friends, staff and faculty may be in the best position to observe signs and symptoms that indicate a need to refer for professional assistance. Below are some of the general signs of serious distress:

  • References to suicide.
  • Noticeable isolation.
  • Significant decrease in energy and motivational level.
  • Marked change in behavior; e. g., (a) appearance change; (b) erratic class attendance or class performance; (c) sudden unwillingness to communicate; (d) drop in grades.
  • Drug and Alcohol abuse.
  • Eating disorder.
  • Self -deprecation and excessive self-criticism.
  • Statements reflecting a sense of worthlessness, hopelessness, and helplessness.
  • Psychosomatic symptoms, such as tension-induced headaches, nausea, change in appetite or in sleeping habits.
  • Anxiety, depression, stress, and "burnout".
  • Mood or behavior changes following a traumatic change in a relationship, such as divorce or death.
  • Academic problems, such as career indecision, dissatisfaction with academic major, inability to concentrate, and difficulty with workload.
  • Threatening bodily injury or harm to others.
  • Violent behavior or extreme anger.
  • Paranoid states.
  • Marked disorientation or confusion.
  • Agitation, can’t sit still, pacing.

How to Refer

When you wish to refer a student to CAPS it is usually best to be direct and straightforward about your concern for their welfare.
Speak specifically about the behaviors that have raised your concern so you and the student both understand the same frame of reference about the situation.

Some suggested ways to recommend counseling are:

  • "You seem very upset; perhaps it might be helpful to speak to someone. There are counselors available to students at CAPS."
  • "Counseling is helpful for people who feel the way you do. If you would like, you may use my telephone right now to call CAPS to find out how you make an appointment. If you would like, I'd be glad to walk over with you now to find out about speaking with a counselor."
  • "You don't have to continue feeling so depressed (anxious, isolated, stressed out, angry, etc). Counseling can help. Why don't you walk to (or call) CAPS (located on the second floor of the Student Health Center) and make an appointment to speak with a counselor."
  • Feel free to use, amend, or expand on any of the recommendations above. Except in emergencies, the most important thing is to present your concern in a way that helps the student to freely accept, consider, or refuse your recommendation.
  • Some people need time in order to think over the decision to seek counseling. A caring and gentle suggestion is usually enough. If a student says NO emphatically, then it is important to respect and accept that decision and to perhaps leave the door open to speak again.
  • IN AN EMERGENCY SITUATION, it is important to be sure that the student is safe and will receive help. In such instances, CALL 911 for University Police from a campus phone (632-3333 from cell phones and off campus).


Please call the 632-6720 and ask to speak to a counselor or make an appointment to come in to discuss your friend’s situation.

Faculty, Administrative Offices and Services

Please call 632-6720 and tell the receptionist whether the situation is urgent and whether you need to speak to a counselor right away.  Don’t hesitate - call us about any concern, urgent or not.

After-Hour Emergencies

If an emergency arises after hours or on a weekend, the Comprehensive Psychiatry Emergency Program (CPEP), located at the UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL is available for emergency consultation as well as for on-site assessment. Call 444-6050 and ask to speak with a social worker or psychiatric resident who will listen to your description of the situation and advise you. Sometimes they suggest that the student come to the Psychiatry Emergency room for further assessment. If a situation indicates significant risk, they can arrange to have University Police transport a student who is on campus or can send out a mobile crisis unit. If a student is requesting to go to the Psychiatric Emergency Room or this is a life-threatening situation (such as a suicide attempt or assault to another), call UNIVERSITY POLICE AT 911 for help and transportation.