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Resources for Parents, Faculty, and Staff

Resources for Parents

A parents’ eye view of higher education: Is my student doing well?

As parents, we want to see our children do well at college. Each of us has our own version of what “doing well” means. For many of us it means academic success; others of us hope for our son or daughter to affirm their career choice, or to form lasting friendships. Students have spent their life preparing for college with their studying, activities, sports, and volunteering. Now, you may wonder, how is my student doing at Ramapo College?

You know your student best, and therefore know what areas might be of concern, or what areas you might want to make a special point of checking in about. We suggest the following themes to help guide the conversation, with some possible questions to ask and topics to listen for within each theme:


How well is your student communicating with others? Are their friendships or relationships supportive, satisfying, fun, conflicted, antagonistic, etc? Are there conflicts, antagonisms, humor, satisfaction, or supportive exchange? Does your son or daughter seem positive about his/her ability to connect with others, including their roommate?


Is your student reporting satisfaction with their social network or group of friends? Do they like and look forward to the activities they are involved in at The College, including joining student organizations? Are they making an effort to stay on campus during the weekend when there are more opportunities to be social?

Health and Stress/Distress

Again, everyone’s definition of “health” is personal, yet there are universal indicators. Is your student reporting a high number of illnesses or other maladies? As far as you can determine, are their health habits remaining in place? Diet, sleep, and exercise/activity are important elements for “inoculating” students against stress/distress; it’s good to reinforce good habits. Finally, is there mention of feeling “stressed out” or other signs of feeling overwhelmed?

Academic focus and activity

Some of these areas are self-evident and just represent good common sense. Chief among these are items related to your student’s academic progress. Is (s)he attending class regularly and keeping up with assignments? Is there good balance with other activities competing for their attention? Does discussion of their work reflect the concentration and focus in their class work you would hope to see? Are their grades what they would hope or have there been ‘surprises’?

College is a major developmental challenge for both students and parents. Most find it rewarding and fulfilling. It’s good to be as specific as possible in asking about your student’s well-being. If the answers you hear are positive in each of the above-mentioned four areas, you can be comfortable that all that preparation you and your student undertook in the first eighteen years is paying off!

If some area of need emerges, the discussion can shift to needed change and what will bring it about. The college has many helpful resources, available through the college web pages. A ‘family conference’ may help to clear up emerging difficulties before they grow larger. You can always call Counseling Services at 201-684-7522 with questions or to consult with a psychological counselor.

Resources for Faculty and Staff

Responding to distressed students: How to help

Any member of Ramapo College community might come into contact with a distressed student. Being aware of distress signals, methods of intervention, and a source of help for the student can assure you are ready should that time come. Counselors at Counseling Services are available to faculty and staff for consultation. Feel free to call us at (201) 684-7522 if you would like to discuss any concerns with us. For after-hours consultation call Public Safety at (201) 684-6666 and ask to speak to the on-call counselor.

Things to keep in mind

Listed below are some of the common signs of someone in distress. This list is intended as a guideline for identifying unusual levels of distress, not as a diagnostic tool.

Classroom behavior warning signs:

  • Failure to turn in work
  • Persistent arguments or comments that seem irrelevant to the subject at hand
  • Statements of past suicide attempts, or future suicidal plans
  • Frequent absences
  • Poor hygiene or change in personal care
  • Announcement of a personal problem
  • Appeal for help in personal matters


We all may feel depressed from time to time. A depressed mood may generate only one or two symptoms and usually passes within days. Clinically depressed students will exhibit multiple symptoms for a longer period of time. Some of these symptoms are loss of interest in pleasurable activities, depressed mood, crying, a decrease in functioning, sleep disturbances, poor concentration, change in appetite, withdrawal from the usual pattern of social activity, poor hygiene, loss of self-esteem, or preoccupation with death.

Suicidal Thoughts

Most people who attempt suicide communicate early messages about their distress. These messages can range from “I don’t want to be here,” to a series of vague “good-byes,” to “I’m going to kill myself.” Non-verbal messages could include giving away valued items, or putting legal, financial, and college affairs in order. All suicidal messages or behaviors should be taken seriously.

Chronic or Pronounced Anxiety

In some situations a student may be unable to relax or may exhibit signs of constant vigilance or compulsive behavior that they appear not to be able to control. A sign that this may be significant is if you become anxious as a consequence of being with the student.

Agitation or Acting Out

One of the features of this area is that there is an extraordinary departure from socially appropriate behavior. It might include being disruptive, restless, hyperactive, or antagonistic. A student may also demonstrate increased alcohol and/or drug use, inappropriate sexual behavior, or other risk taking behaviors.


Some distressed students may seem “out of it.” There may be a decrease in awareness of what is going on around them, a tendency to forget or lose things, misperception of facts or reality, rambling or disconnected speech, or behavior that seems out of context or bizarre.

Drug and Alcohol Abuse

Signs of intoxication during class or interaction with others are indicative of a problem that requires attention.

Violence and Aggression

Physically violent behavior, verbal threats, threatening e-mail or letters, harassment, stalking behavior, or papers/exams that contain violent or threatening material may indicate danger to others. It is better to be cautious about such behavior – and respond to it – then to overlook it while hoping “things will just blow over.”

Intervention guidelines

While it is not expected that you be a “watchdog” or that you provide a thorough assessment, you may be the first one to notice a student’s distress and be in a position to ask a few questions. Following these guidelines can lead to a positive outcome for all parties.

Safety First!

Always keep safety in mind as you interact with a distressed student. Maintain a safe distance and a route of escape should you need it. If there appears to be an imminent danger to you or the student, call Campus Public Safety at 684-6666 or 911.

Avoid Escalation

Distressed students can sometimes be easily provoked. Avoid threatening, humiliating, and intimidating responses. It is usually not a good idea to “pull rank” and assert authority unless you are certain of the student’s mental health status. Distressed students are in need of listening and support. Rules can be discussed at a later time.

Ask Direct Questions

Take a calm and matter-of-fact approach. Ask students directly if they are drunk, confused or if they have thoughts of harming themselves. You need not be afraid to ask these questions. You will not be “putting ideas in their heads” by doing so. Most distressed students are relieved to know that someone has noticed and is paying attention.

Do Not Assume You Are Being Manipulated

While it is true that some students appear distressed in order to get attention or relief from responsibility, only a thorough assessment can determine this. Attention-seekers can have serious problems and be in danger, too.

Know Your Limits

You will be able to assist many distressed students on your own by simply listening and/or referring them for further help. Some students, however, will need much more than you can provide. Be alert for any feelings of discomfort you may have and focus on getting them the assistance they require. You can do this by praising them for confiding in you, being accepting and nonjudgmental, trying to clarify what they see as the problem area, and indicating that seeking professional help is a positive and responsible thing to do. Some emotional signs you might experience that indicate you may have over-extended yourself include:

  • Feeling stressed out or overwhelmed by the situation
  • Feeling angry at the student
  • Feeling afraid
  • Having thoughts of “adopting” or otherwise rescuing the student
  • “Reliving” similar experiences of your own

If you identify any of the above reactions in yourself, it is especially important that you recruit help for yourself and/or seek consultation about the situation. Remember, Counseling Services is here to help! Come by D-216 or call (201) 684-7522.


If you are seeking help for situations of an emergent nature that occur during office hours, please be sure to inform the receptionist regarding the nature of your emergency, and we will do everything possible to see you immediately. For emergencies after hours, call the main number at 201-684-7522 and press 2 for immediate assistance

Identities and Intersectionality – LGBTQ Professional Development Session for Faculty and Staff

2/14/24 from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Garden State Equality is partnering with Ramapo College to facilitate a professional development session that focuses on cultural competency and helps organizations improve their services for the LGBTQ community (and other minority groups). It addresses the impact of privilege and power when accessing and receiving services. The workshop also includes how multiple intersecting identities and intersectionality are at play in the personal and professional realms, and how they impact the quality of services provided. It concludes with strategies on how to create safe, inclusive spaces for marginalized populations.

This program is made possible by OSHE: Mental Health in Higher Education: Community Provider Partnerships and
Professional Development Grant.

This professional development session will be offered in a hybrid manner. Staff and faculty can attend virtually via webex or in-person in the Alumni Lounges (Student Center 156-157). Please register below.

Register to Attend Virtually

View the conference virtually
(Via WebEx)

Attend Virtually

Register to Attend In-person (Student Center 156-157)

LGBTQ+ PD for Faculty and Staff
Primary role *