Date of Award

January 2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Counseling Psychology & Community Services

First Advisor

Cindy Juntunen


Previous research has shown that teachers are common referral points for children

experiencing mental health difficulties. This is especially true in rural communities and a

major time of intervention has been following natural disasters, when there are not

enough mental health services in an area, or they are too taxed. This study sought to

explore teachers’ referral habits and determine if there is any difference when rural

challenges are present or if the teacher has previously experienced a disaster. To this end,

teachers were recruited, presented with vignettes that either contained rural challenges or

did not contain rural challenges and then were asked questions about referring the

students presented in the vignettes. No differences were found between responses of

those who received the rural challenge or no rural challenge vignettes. Nor were there

differences between those who had or had not experienced a disaster. The study

highlighted teachers’ reliance on school counselors, their willingness to work

collaboratively with mental health providers and a level of uncertainty about what

constitutes a normal response to a disaster versus what illustrates mental health symptoms

of post traumatic stress disorder.