Information for RA Staff

As residence hall staff members, you are in the unique position of interacting with students in their living environments. Because of your role, you likely will have occasions in which students are in crisis after hours or during the night. As a supplement to the information provided in the previous section, this section addresses issues unique to residence hall staff who are dealing with students in distress after hours.

Direct Referrals to the Counseling Center from Department of Residence Life

Resident Directors, Hall Directors, Complex Directors and Area Coordinators can directly refer a student to the Counseling Center by first calling 517-355-8270 or directly walking the student to our office during regular business hours. If after hours please either call the liaison phone number, provided to you, or call 911.

What Should I Do if a Student is in Distress and the Counseling Center is Closed?

If a student is in distress, and it is after hours, it may be helpful for you, the residence hall staff member, to talk with the student and determine whether he/she can wait for help (Functional or Chronic – lower risk) or whether immediate attention is required (Critical – higher risk). Remember, it is always good practice to consult with other residence hall staff when in doubt. In all cases, residence hall mentors/community coordinators/community peers should always follow the Mental Health Response Protocol you were trained to use as well as your QPR Training. For critical non-emergency cases, contact the ADH or Unit Director on duty. They will have access to a counseling center staff member after hours. For critical/emergency casescall 911 and then contact the AHD or Unit Director on Duty.

Risk can be tricky to determine, and again, it is very important to consult with other staff when you are faced with these types of decisions. Do not make these types of decisions alone. In general, risk is commonly determined by whether 1.) The student is in danger of harming him/herself or someone else; OR 2.) The student is showing signs that he/she has lost touch with reality (bizarre behavior, hallucinations, extreme paranoia).

Often, risk can be even more difficult to determine when alcohol or other substances are involved. However, the rule “it is better to be safe than sorry” applies here, and once again it is important that you seek consultation with other staff. Remember that alcohol or drug intoxication also carries risks with regard to impulsive behavior, poor decision-making, and mood swings, and therefore it is important to not simply assume that a student will simply “sleep it off.” If you feel that the student’s (or your) safety is at risk, it is important that you call for help immediately. Here are three phone numbers you may need to use:

  • Dial 911
  • Ingham County Emergency Services: (517) 351-2590
  • MSU Department of Police and Public Safety: (517) 355-2221

If you feel that the student’s safety is not at immediate risk (i.e., he/she does not intend to commit suicide or homicide in the immediate future), it may be helpful for you to suggest that the student call the Counseling Center when it opens at 8 a.m. the next morning (or the next business day) and schedule an appointment. When the student calls the Counseling Center the next morning, they will have contact with a counselor then or within a few hours.

The Counseling Center Liaisons welcome calls or emails from Resident Directors, Hall Directors, Complex Directors and Area Coordinators who wish to consult about their residents’ mental health concerns. We ask that mentors follow the Mental Health Response Protocol and consult with their assistant hall directors and complex director first. The Counseling Center is happy to assist any Residence Hall staff member who feels the need to debrief after an especially difficult experience.

I’ve Referred One of My Residents to the Counseling Center. How Will I Know If They Went to Their Counseling Appointment?

If the resident that you referred has signed an Authorization form, we are permitted to let you know information pertaining to that specific resident. However, if the resident decides not to sign an Authorization Form, because of confidentiality, you will not be allowed to gain any information regarding that resident.