Responding to Students of Concern

Best Practices for Behavioral Intervention Teams

Topics: Student Affairs, Student Health and Wellness, Mental Health and Counseling, Student Health Centers, Alcohol and Drug Use, Student Experience, Special Populations, Academic Support Programs

Recalibrating Training Outreach

Diagnostic Questions

The following questions are designed to guide members in evaluating their current outreach efforts regarding students of concern. Based on the number of affirmative responses, each member will fall into one of the categories on the opposite page. These categories can be used to identify tactics particularly well-suited to member circumstances. Note: questions should be answered from the perspective of the BIT Chair.

1. Does your institution conduct in-person BIT training at times other than new faculty and staff orientation?
2. Does your BIT create an annual outreach plan to target campus populations that have not received training recently?
3. Do BIT training presentations cover the following key components: how to identify students of concern, the BIT’s mission, directions for emergency situations, and an overview of the referral process?
4. Does your BIT have quick reference materials such as a 911 folder or a highly visible brochure?
5. Does your BIT have a dedicated website with clear instructions on the referral process, team membership, and contact information?
6. Do websites for your institution’s counseling center, student conduct office, dean of students office, and faculty portal include links to the BIT website?
7. Does your BIT send reminders to faculty and staff during high-stress periods such as mid-terms and final exams?
8. Does your BIT review data annually to determine which departments or schools do not make any referrals?

Understanding Your Current State

Number of Yes Responses

0-2 Minimal Outreach: The BIT does not reach many audiences on campus. Few campus constituents know how to identify, respond to, and refer students of concern.

The Forum strongly recommends that institutions in this category create a Dedicated BIT Website with clear information about how to identify students of concern, what to do in an emergency, and how to refer students of concern to the BIT.

3-5 Standard Outreach: Some faculty and staff are generally aware of how to identify students of concern and typically make referrals to Student Aff airs leaders.

The Forum recommends that institutions in this category develop Quick Reference Materials such as brochures or 911 folders to quickly increase campus awareness regarding students of concern and the BIT referral process. Additionally Just in Time Reminders (via email or campus mail) will help generate timely referrals at high-stress points during the academic year.

6-8 Advanced Outreach: Most faculty, administrators, and staff know about the BIT and understand the referral process. As a next step, some institutions are launching additional outreach campaigns to raise mental health awareness among students, parents, and community members while senior leaders at other universities are providing more specialized training to staff members who work closely with students of concern.

Institutions that fall into this category may consider implementing Role-Based Differentiated Training in order to address the varying needs for information and expertise across campus.

Creating a Culture of Referrals

BITs Rely on Strong Network of “Eyes and Ears”

The Forum’s work illustrates that the first step in responding to students of concern is to create a culture of referrals. If no one knows about the BIT or the team is not getting referrals from the community, there is little chance of success. Research contacts suggest that a BIT can’t be successful in its work without partners on campus who can identify and refer concerning individuals.

At some institutions, these partners are narrowly defined as faculty, staff , and administrators while other schools use a broader description that encompasses students and parents as well as individuals in the local community.

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Reducing the Ripple Effect

Students of Concern Cause Widespread Disruption on Campus

All too often, students of concern have a ripple effect on campus, causing stress and worry among roommates, classmates, faculty, and staff . Forum interviewees stress the importance of a robust campus referral network as being a key factor in early identification. If a student is found early, there is a greater range of options and resources available to support them.

When a student surfaces in crisis, however, the options are very limited and in some cases the only choices are hospitalization, leave, or withdrawal.

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Too Early, Too Infrequent

Current Training Efforts Focus on Faculty and Staff Orientation

The Forum’s research illustrates how most BITs focus their training efforts on new faculty and staff orientation. While these presentations get the team in front of new community members, they often compete for people’s mindshare with other topics such as benefits, HR policies, and parking. Also the team may miss constituencies such as adjuncts or teaching assistants who do not typically attend the institution’s orientation.

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Information Overload

Many BIT Presentations Confuse Faculty with Unnecessary Detail

Another issue for teams to consider is the quantity and depth of training material. Forum research shows that current outreach presentations typically include too much detail and often overwhelm faculty and staff . Some interviewees shared that attendees often leave feeling as if they need to diagnose students or to remember eight different offices and phone numbers.

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Practice #1: Campus-Wide Basic Training