Information for Fellow Mercer Students
We offer these guidelines regarding assisting distressed students
Your role as a friend or fellow student at Mercer is crucial to students who may experience stress. Students under duress perceive you as an individual who can provide support, a helping hand or just be there to hear what they have to say. By expressing interest in a distressed student, you become a critical figure in helping them find the appropriate assistance. Being that right person at the right time can mean everything to the student.
The distressed student is a close friend: Your relationship with close friends are unlike many relationships out there. Friends often share thoughts, secrets and desires. Many times, these ideas are not shared with anyone else. What happens if a friend says something that alarms you? Maybe you even fear for their safety. You do not need to feel like you are their counselor, but making yourself available to the student can help them with their immediate feelings. Your relationship with them is valuable.
- The distressed student is a classmate or an acquaintance: What if you are an acquaintance? Maybe you are in a class with someone for which you have a serious concern. How do you confront an individual for whom you don't have a strong relationship? These might be questions that have crossed your mind before, but you did not know what to do. There are resources available for any situation and you can find them below.
Sometimes a student might come to you and disclose their concerns, but many times they do not come directly to you to disclose a problem. Maybe you notice a change in their behavior that makes you concerned. You might see a student's hygiene decline, class attendance become problematic, grades rapidly falling, or even bizarre or inappropriate behaviors appear in class or around other students. These might be signs of a bigger problem and can be addressed in a variety of ways.
If you have a friend, classmate or acquaintance that is experiencing a crisis, which is now causing the student to be unsafe with him/herself or others, call MERPO or 911 immediately. The responders can intervene in the emergency situation and will follow the appropriate protocol to assist you and the student.
In most cases, you will find that when a student is presenting with distressed thoughts and behaviors, they are not actively experiencing an emergency. Many times in these situations, just being a present and active listener can help minimize the stress for the student. During your interaction with them you feel they need to talk to someone professionally for more support. In these cases, you have a variety of options:
- Make the phone call to CAPS with your friend/classmate/acquaintance present, so that the they can schedule an appointment
- During business hours, you can walk the student over to the CAPS office to begin the appointment process (call first to confirm that there is a representative in the office available to help)
- If you feel uncomfortable assisting the student, talk with a familiar Mercer faculty or staff member for assistance.
Remember, you always have access to CAPS representatives. If you call the offices and you do not get connected with a person immediately, determine the urgency of your inquiry. If it is not an emergency, please leave a message for a CAPS staff member and we will be in touch with you as soon as we can. If you are an enrolled student, you always have the option of scheduling an appointment with a CAPS counselor to discuss your concern(s). You may also be experiencing stress, anxiety or depression as result of your interaction with your distressed friend. Here are some of the departments that can help give you guidance:
- Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS): 478-301-2862 (Macon), 678-547-6060 (Atlanta)
- Student Affairs Office (Dean of Students): 478-301-2685 (Macon),
- Residence Life Office: 478-301-2687 (Macon)
- Student Health Clinic: 478-301-2696 (Macon),
- MERPO: 478-301-4357 (Macon), 678-547-6358 (Atlanta)
When talking with CAPS staff, please remember that we value our client's privacy. If the student you are concerned about is also a client at CAPS, the counselors can not share information about them with you, even if you know they are an active client with CAPS. If the student signs a release for us to disclose privileged information with you, then we will share necessary information to help assist the student.
We appreciate your dedication to your fellow friends/classmates!
As always, please contact CAPS if you ever have questions about a situation, about our services, about where we are located or what a next step might be. If someone is in immediate danger, please call MERPO (Macon: 478-301-4357; Atlanta: 678-547-6358) or 911 for immediate assistance.