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University Life Café

A student with his face in his hands.

Recognizing Students in Distress

This resource describes the importance of recognizing students in distress and reaching out appropriately to support them.

**Preview Points**

  • People can form a more caring society by paying to each other’s well being.  
  • Marked changes in academic performance or behavior may be a warning sign.  
  • Behavioral or interpersonal problems may be an indicator of emotional distress, too.  
  • References to suicide, homicide or death may be a warning sign of distress, too.  

### Contents

Attentive friends and acquaintances may be able to help out a person who is in emotional distress.  

This will require that people be aware of changes in regular behaviors, interpersonal problems, and references to suicide, homicide or death.  These changes could include any of the following:  

**Marked Changes in Academic Performance or Behavior:**

  • Uncharacteristically poor performance and preparation
  • Excessive absences or tardiness
  • Repeated requests for special consideration especially when this represents a change from previous functioning
  • Avoiding or dominating discussions
  • Excessively anxious when called upon
  • Disruptive classroom behavior
  • Intense emotion or inappropriate responses  

**Behavioral or Interpersonal Problems:**

  • Asking the instructor for help with personal problems
  • Complaints from other students
  • Hyperactivity or very rapid speech
  • Tearfulness
  • Irritability or angry outbursts
  • Problems with roommate(s) or family
  • Changes in personal hygiene or dress
  • Dramatic weight loss or gain
  • Disjointed thoughts

**References to Suicide, Homicide or Death:**

  • Expressed thoughts of helplessness or hopelessness
  • Overt or vague references to suicide
  • Isolation from friends or family
  • References to suicide or homicide in verbal statements or writing

### Concluding Points

  • Seek help immediately if a student is talking about direct harm to self or others.  
  • Get emergency or professional help right away if a student starts to act in a bizarre or disruptive manner. 

Recognizing Students in Distress (pdf)