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Dealing with Student Emotional Difficulties

Dealing with Student Emotional Difficulties

School Transitions

All children face certain complex emotions during their school years—it’s part of growing up. But for students in international schools there are added challenges such as living in a foreign country, adjusting to an unfamiliar culture and often having to make new friends and say good-bye to old ones on a fairly regular basis.

“At Concordia we acknowledge and respond to the transition process as everyone can be impacted in various ways by this mobile lifestyle.” - Elementary School Counselor

Using the International Model for School Counseling, Concordia addresses the issue of international education by providing elementary school classroom guidance lessons that deal with the social and emotional impact of moving to and living outside of one’s home country.

Transitioning students also find support through the school’s Ambassador Program for Grades 7 to 12. Student ambassadors create a friendly school environment by corresponding via email with new students before they arrive and by helping them get acclimated during those first few hectic weeks at school.


At Concordia we do not tolerate bullying in any form. Counselors intentionally educate students on how to respond to bullying whether it is aimed at them directly or they are bystanders to an inappropriate exchange.

Since adolescence is unfortunately a common time when bullying occurs, the middle school faculty work with the students using and teaching the Restorative Justice Model. This involves monthly guidance lessons and advisory periods which help students to understand that they have a voice, as well as a responsibility, to stop bullying when they encounter it. Students learn techniques on how to do this; they also get active and ongoing support and development from teachers, counselors and administrators who help them with the process.

Self-Harm or Suicidal Ideation

Self-harm occurs when an individual chooses to inflict wounds upon themselves because of psychological distress. Although it is difficult to understand this behavior, it becomes a coping mechanism for some people. Feelings of anxiety and distress, feeling outside of one’s body, and the need for self-punishment are among the reasons self-injurers site for their behavior. Self Harm left unaddressed may lead to more serious suicidal ideations and/or suicidal attempts.

Suicidal ideation refers to when someone has suicidal thoughts. Most people who have suicidal thoughts do not take action; females attempt more often, while male teens have a higher rate of suicide. A student with suicidal thoughts may also be dealing with abuse, depression, anxiety or eating disorders, gender confusion, Families with medical histories of mental illness, could be prone to suicidal ideation.

Ideation can be vague (simply a wish) to more serious degree with a specific plan. The following factors can be risks to consider or protective factors adding to the situation: intrapersonal thoughts, social context (family system), and cultural norms (regarding mental health).

Here are some of the symptoms a student might express to a teacher, peer, or counselor:

  • feeling or appearing to feel trapped or hopeless
  • feeling intolerable emotional pain
  • having or appearing to have an preoccupation with violence, dying, or death
  • Having a plan to kill themselves
  • having mood swings, either happy or sad
  • talking about revenge, guilt, or shame
  • being agitated, or in a heightened state of anxiety
  • experiencing changes in personality, routine, or sleeping pattern

Teacher Responsibility

1. Any staff member who becomes aware that a student may be suicidal is to immediately notify the school counselor or an administrator and assure that the student is not left alone.

2. A school counselor or school administrator will see the student immediately and continue to ensure constant supervision of the student.

3. If the student is violent and is in danger of hurting him/herself or others, the school administrator is notified.

4. The school counselor or school administrator will attempt to conduct an interview. The purpose of the interview is to provide staff with information to determine how to best ensure the safety of the student. The student is informed that appropriate actions will be taken and that confidentiality can and will be breached. The students may be given appropriate choices on how the suicidal ideation, action, and or plan is disclosed.

*The counselor may adjust the procedures in emergency situations if in professional judgment modifications are necessary to ensure the safety and welfare of the student or student body.

School Counselor / Administrator / Head of School Responsibilities

Based on the interview, one of the following procedures is initiated:

A. If the student's responses indicate that he/she may not be at imminent risk:

1. The school holds a Signs of Safety Meeting with parents to create a safety plan. Parents are advised of the need to supervise and support their child. School team shares resources with the parents. The meeting is documented and follow up meeting is set.

2. The grade level principal and the assistant head of school or the head of school are notified.

B. If the student admits to being suicidal or his/her responses result in suspicions of immediate risk, the following steps are suggested to ensure the student safety:

1. The parents are notified immediately of the seriousness of the concern and informed that the student is not allowed to leave the school unless accompanied by a parent or guardian or another person for whom the parent permits to pick up the student. Parent's permission to release the student to another person is documented.

2. The grade level principal and the assistant head of school or the head of school are notified.

3. The student is not to be left alone and remains with the support staff member until a parent/guardian or person identified in an emergency takes charge of the student. The parents are advised to take the student immediately to the nearest emergency room and/or to a licensed mental health provider for a crisis evaluation.

4. Before the student is discharged, school staff advise the receiving person of the need for continued supervision and support for the student.

6. The student can safely return to school only after being evaluated by a licensed professional mental health provider. The school team holds a Signs of Safety meeting and an action plan is established prior to the student’s return to his or her classes. School administrator is aware of students return and re-entry/safety plan. The safety plan must be completed which advises parents of the school’s concern for their child and their responsibility to ensure the safety of every student. The plan is then signed by the parent and the school official and serves as documentation of the consultation and the parent's acknowledgment of the school concern for their child suicidal ideation, suicidal threats and or self-harm. A copy is kept by the school. The plan notes if the family is resistant to school safety processes.

7. If the student returns to school without evidence that an evaluation occurred, the support staff member immediately consult the administrator. Supervision of the student is reinstated until the parent/guardian picks the student up and/or provides a safety clearance document from a licensed mental health professional. The student may not return to school unless the parents/guardians seek out a licensed mental health professional.