Dean of Students

Recognizing & Assisting Students in Distress

Faculty, staff, students or others who are concerned about the behavior of a student that is potentially dangerous to self or others, or is disruptive are encouraged to report or discuss the concern with an appropriate University representative. Assisting Students in Distress

Recognizing Students in Distress

Some common indicators of students (and others) in distress include:

  • Depression
    Symptoms include sleep disturbances, poor concentration, change in appetite, loss of interest in pleasurable activities, withdrawal, poor hygiene, loss of self-esteem, suicidal thoughts and preoccupation with death. 
  • Agitation
    Being disruptive, restless or hyperactive, being antagonistic, and may include an increase in alcohol and/or drug abuse. 
  • Disorientation
    May include odd or unusual thinking and behavior, lack of awareness of what is going on around them, misperception of facts or reality, rambling or disconnected speech, and behavior that seems out of context or bizarre. 
  • Drug and Alcohol Abuse
    Signs of intoxication during class, at work or other inappropriate times.
  • Suicidal Thoughts
    Most people who attempt suicide communicate their distress through statements like "I don't want to be here," "No one would miss me if I were gone," or "I'm going to kill myself." Non-verbal messages could include giving away valued items, and putting legal, financial, and other affairs in order. Indications of suicide should be taken seriously. 
  • Violence and Aggression This includes physically violent behavior, verbal threats, threatening e-mail or letters, harassing or stalking behavior, and papers or exams that contain violent or threatening material.

Report a Student Concern for more guidance on this issue. Faculty should pay attention to indicators that the student's level of distress is increasing and be prepared to take further action if necessary.

Mildly troubled students may exhibit behaviors which do not disrupt others but may indicate something is wrong and that assistance is needed.

  • Significant worsening of academic performance
  • Excessive absences, especially if the student has previously demonstrated consistent attendance
  • Unusual changes in patterns of interaction. Becoming withdrawn, avoidant, anxious, etc

Moderately troubled students may exhibit behaviors that indicate significant emotional distress. They may also be reluctant or unable to acknowledge a need for personal help.

  • Exaggerated or unusual emotional responses which are obviously inappropriate to the situation.
  • Repeated requests for special consideration, such as deadline extensions, especially if the student appears uncomfortable or highly emotional while disclosing the circumstances prompting the request.
  • New or repeated behavior which pushes the limits of decorum and which interferes with effective management of the immediate environment

Severely troubled students exhibit behaviors that signify an obvious crisis and that necessitate emergency action.

  • Extremely disruptive behavior, such as hostility, aggression or violence
  • Overtly talking or hinting at suicidal thoughts or intentions (referring to suicide as a current and viable option)
  • Threatening to harm others
  • Stalking behaviors or harassment
  • Inability to communicate clearly (garbled, slurred speech; unconnected, disjointed or rambling thoughts)
  • Loss of contact with reality (hallucinations or delusions)
  • Inappropriate communications, such threatening letters, e-mail messages or voicemail

In an Emergency to report concerns about severely troubled students.