Battling the Demons

Getting help for troubled students

Vol. 10 No. 6
May 2008

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Battling the Demons
Students, mental health, and the specter of violence on campus

Getting help for troubled students

Video: Dealing with students at risk

“Today a student walks out of a math test and picks up the cell phone, and Mom knows immediately how the test went.
Parents haven’t cut the apron strings, and many little issues get blown out of proportion.”

The thing you’re most worried about is not someone going out and shooting people. . . . Suicide, eating disorders that can lead to heart attacks, alcohol and drug abuse that lead to accidents—those are the ways we lose students. ”

Sustainability and Scholarship
Rethinking the separation of academics and engagement at Emory

Re-imagining health care reform
From old paradox to new paradigm


What legal constraints come into play when faculty encounter a student who exhibits troubling behavior, and for whom they would like to get additional help? According to legal authorities at Emory, there’s probably more latitude than generally believed. One thing they stress: The only truly wrong choice would be to do nothing.

“If a faculty member is concerned about a student’s behavior or well being, there are no rules, regulations, or statutes that prohibit that faculty member from sharing information about the student with other appropriate individuals at the university,” according to Associate General Counsel Amy Adelman.

It may also come as a surprise to some that faculty are within legal bounds to approach a student and inform them (privately and discreetly, of course) about the support system at Emory for dealing with a variety of personal issues. Emory, says Adelman, would rather see faculty err on the side of preserving an individual’s safety and health than to be overly focused on privacy concerns.

“Our obligation as an institution is to create a safe environment, and the privacy issue is very important,” Adelman says. “But the safety of the student and the community comes first. We don’t want faculty and others walking up and down the hall talking unnecessarily about their students’ mental health issues. However, if a faculty member is concerned about a student, he or she should do something—call the counseling center, speak to the student, express concern, make sure the student is aware of resources on campus, or call the dean’s office. It’s legal to do so.” Adelman adds that the general counsel’s office welcomes calls from faculty who have questions about whether disclosure of information is appropriate.