Recognizing a Student in Distress

These are general indicators that a student may be having difficulty coping with a traumatic experience, dealing with an alcohol or drug use disorder, or experiencing another significant wellness issue.

  • Expressions of Concern About a Student by Other Students
  • Marked Change in Academic Performance or Behavior
    • Excessive absences or tardiness
    • Inappropriate disruption or monopolization of class time
    • Avoidance of class participation
    • Significant deterioration in quality of work
    • Frequent requests for special considerations, especially when this represents a change from previous functioning
  • Unusual Behavior, Attitudes, or Appearance
    • Exaggerated emotional response that is obviously inappropriate to the situation
    • Depressed mood, lethargy, excessive fatigue
    • Hyperactivity or very rapid speech
    • Marked change in personal hygiene or dress
    • Noticeable weight loss or gain
    • Strange or bizarre behavior possibly indicating loss of contact with reality (Rambling thoughts, laughing to self, disorganized thinking, suspiciousness, or prolonged vacant staring)
  • Direct or Indirect References to Significant Distress, Suicide, or Homicide
    • Expressed thoughts of helplessness or hopelessness
    • References to suicide or violence (may appear in written assignments)
    • Isolation from friends or family

What You Can Do:

  • Talk to the student in private, when you both have time and are not rushed.
  • Discuss your concerns with the student in behavioral, non-judgmental terms. 
  • Avoid judging, evaluating, & criticizing even if the student asks your opinion. It is important to respect the student’s value system, even if you disagree.
  • Refer the student to resources available to them.
  • Offer to have follow-up meeting with the student to continue to provide support while the student takes the appropriate actions.
  • If you have questions about how to support a student experiencing sexual misconduct, what resources are available to students, or the different ways that students can report any form of sexual misconduct, visit Sexual Misconduct Resources.

Reminder to Report

Faculty and Staff are responsible employees and must notify the Title IX Coordinator or Deputy Coordinator of any reports of sexual or gender-based violence.


If you are unsure what to do with a specific student, reach out anytime to consult and figure out the best way to approach the situation.