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Gold Folder helps faculty and staff ID students in distress

By Cathy Cockrell

UC Berkeley employees now have a quick-reference guide to help them identify signs of an emotionally distressed student and take steps to access appropriate resources.

The packet, known as the Gold Folder Faculty/Staff Reference to Assist Students in Distress, was developed jointly by the Office of the Dean of Students and Counseling and Psychological Services.

Gold Folder training sessions

In-person trainings for faculty and staff are set for two dates in April:

  • 3:30 to 5:30 p.m., Thursday, April 18
  • 3 to 5 p.m., Thursday, April 25

To sign up or for more information, contact

A brief online training is available as well.

“In light of various campus tragedies over the years, all of us are concerned about students who may be a danger to the community and/or to themselves,” Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost George Breslauer and Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Harry Le Grande wrote in a CalMessage introducing the new resource.

“If you are concerned about a student’s behavior, the Gold Folder can be used as a practical guide to determine possible next steps and to locate appropriate campus resources,” they wrote. “A far more likely scenario is that a student would pose a danger to him or herself.”

The new resource is available online (PDF). Printed copies will be sent to faculty and staff via campus mail by the end of April. For those with a smartphone, a mobile app will be added in the near future. In-person trainings for faculty and staff are set for two dates in April.

The Gold Folder includes a clearly organized list of “indicators of distress” — unprovoked anger or hostility and marked changes in physical appearance being just two examples. The list comes with the caveat that faculty and staff should look for groupings, frequency, duration and severity of behaviors, not isolated symptoms. A list of relevant campus resources, and a decision-tree-style chart outlining whom to contact when dealing with a psychologically at-risk student, are part of the guide as well.

“Too many” at-risk students “suffer in silence because they are afraid to ask for help or do not know where to turn,” reads a related letter to campus faculty and staff, from Akirah Bradley, assistant dean of students, and Jeffrey Prince, director of counseling and psychological services. “By educating people …  about the signs of a student in distress, how to respond, and where to access resources,” it notes, “we believe we can increase the likelihood that students will get the help that they need to succeed.

“Although you may be able to provide some level of guidance and support,” they add, “we do not expect you to take on the sole responsibility to counsel when it is outside of your scope. Instead, we ask you to bring them to the attention of those trained to do so.”

For additional information on the Gold Folder project, contact Aaron Cohen, Counseling and Psychological Services, at 642-9494.