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Tips for Recognizing Distress

Mary Anne Knapp and Kurt Gehlert are on staff at the Center for Counseling and Psychological Services, and present this workshop many times each year at the University Park Campus.

In the workshop, Mary Anne presents a segment on

"Tips for Identification of Students in Distress"

At one time or another, everyone feels depressed or upset. The following may help to identify some symptoms which, when present over a period of time, suggest that the problems a person is dealing with are more than the "normal:"

Mary Anne Knapp  

Marked Change in Academic Performance or Behavior

  • Poor performance and preparation
  • Excessive absences or tardiness
  • Repeated requests for special consideration especially when this represents a change from previous functioning
  • Avoiding participation
  • Dominating discussions
  • Excessively anxious when called upon
  • Disruptive behavior
  • Exaggerated emotional response that is obviously inappropriate to the situation

Unusual Behavior or Appearance

  • Depressed or lethargic mood
  • Hyperactivity or very rapid speech
  • Deterioration in personal hygiene or dress
  • Dramatic weight loss or gain
  • Strange or bizarre behavior indicating loss of contact with
  • Observable signs of an injury

References to Emotional or Life Stressors

  • Problems with roommates, family, or romantic partners
  • Experiencing a death of a significant other
  • Experiencing a physical or sexual assault
  • Experiencing discrimination based on gender, race,
    religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or disabilities
  • Experiencing legal difficulties
  • Any other problem or situation that is experienced as a loss
    or stress

References to Suicide, Homicide or Death

  • Feelings of helplessness or hopelessness
  • Verbal or written references to suicide
  • Verbal or written references to homicide or assaultive
  • Isolation from friends, family and classmates


  ADA/EEOC © 2003. Center for Counseling and Psychological Services  501 Student Health Center  (814) 863-0395