Supporting Students in Distress
Faculty and Staff have a direct link to our students and can contribute to their well-being. Declining academic performance and worrisome behaviors are often indicators that a student may be facing struggles in other areas. Faculty and Staff are often the first to recognize when a student is distressed, distressing, or just needs additional support.
Signs a Student May be Distressed
Signs which may demonstrate a student is in distress and in need of support include but are not limited to the following: If a student is exhibiting concerning behavior, talk to them in a kind, honest, and direct way. The specific behaviors that are the cause for concern should be cited using clear language.
- Disruptive physical, vernal or written behaviors inside/outside the classroom, on/off campus and/or online
- Significant personal distress (academic, family, relationship problems)
- Decline in personal grooming
- Crosses interpersonal boundaries
- Confrontational, easily provoked, angry, unpredictable behavior
- Threatening statements about self or others (direct or veiled)
- Threatening words or behavior toward self or others
- Self-abuse such as cuts, burns, or extreme weight loss
- Suicidal ideas, threats, gestures or known suicide attempts
- Aggressive acts or threats toward a specific group
- Relationship violence/stalking
- Weapon possession
- Paranoia or delusions
- Flat affect or extreme lack of responsiveness
- Excessive class absenteeism
- Uncharacteristically poor academic performance
- Substance abuse
How to Show Concern
- Safety first- If you feel that you or the student are in danger, call 911
- Talk with the student privately in a kind, honest and direct way. Provide specific examples of their behaviors of concern using clear, concrete language.
- Share all available resources and encourage them to seek help.
- Know your limits. Refer to a professional when:
- The distress is hindering the student’s and/or other students' progress in class.
- You see a worrisome behavior pattern when you interact with the student.
- The problem seems more serious than you are comfortable handling.
- You are worried about the student's safety.
- You are concerned about the student's impact on others.
- You feel pressure to solve the student's problem and/or feel responsible for the student.
- You are over-extending yourself to help the student.
- You feel anxious when the student approaches you.