College can be a difficult place. Students, especially at schools like Harvard, often have the pressure to succeed continually bearing down on them. Most are living away from home for the first time. Relationships with others may be hard to start and harder to maintain.
Those in constant contact with students may see signs that academic or personal tensions are adversely affecting both grades and contentment with life. But they may not know what to do about it. For example, a number of Harvard faculty have expressed uncertainty about when it’s appropriate for them to intervene, how they should do so, and the range of University resources to which they can refer students.
To close this gap, Harvard has prepared a new brochure titled “What can I do? How to recognize students in distress and how to help.”
“The brochure helps faculty members recognize students in distress, and it explains how to talk with students at such difficult times and refer them to appropriate resources,” notes Provost Harvey Fineberg. “The deans of Harvard College and the University’s graduate schools have endorsed the importance of its message and have distributed the brochure to their respective faculty. We all hope that the brochure will relieve some of the tension that faculty now experience when they confront distressed students, and will enable them to direct those students more confidently to needed professional help.”
“Even the most gifted and motivated students can encounter emotional or psychological stumbling blocks in their academic careers,” says Jeremy Knowles, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. “While as teachers we are often in a good position to notice students who are troubled, many of us are inadequately prepared either to help them directly or to guide them towards professional help. The brochure provides us with this information.”
Faculty members first proposed the idea for the publication last year during conversations about how to improve student counseling services at Harvard. The brochure is sponsored by the University Student Health Coordinating Board, which includes the deans of students, directors of student health and counseling services, and Harvard-affiliated medical personnel.
The brochure was Wwritten by Donald Stone, professor of romance languages and literatures, emeritus, with input from faculty and staff across the University. The, brochure contains two sections. The main part describes how to recognize academic, psychological, and other warning signs of distress. It also discusses how to engage students and how to make referrals. Inserts tailored to each school’s resources give telephone numbers and other information for emergency referrals.
Distribution began this month, and the publication is already in its second printing. The brochure can be viewed on the Provost’s Web site at http://www.provost.harvard.edu/shcb/.