How do you know when a student needs help?

Listed below are some of the more prevalent signs of someone in distress. This list is intended to provide basic information.

1. Depression
While we all may feel depressed from time to time, “normal” depression typically consists of only one or two symptoms; and, usually will pass within a few days. Clinically depressed students will exhibit multiple symptoms for a longer period of time. Some of these symptoms are depressed mood, sleep disturbances, poor concentration, change in appetite, loss of interest in pleasurable activities, withdrawal, poor hygiene, loss of self-esteem, and preoccupation with death.

2. Agitation or Acting Out

This would represent a departure from normal or socially appropriate behavior. It might include being disruptive, restless or hyper-active; being antagonistic, and increased alcohol and/or drug abuse.

3. Disorientation
Distressed students may seem “out of it.” You may notice a diminished awareness of what is going on around them, forgetting or losing things, misperception of facts or reality, rambling or disconnected speech, and behavior that seems out of context or bizarre.

4. Drug and Alcohol Abuse
If someone is drinking or using drugs excessively and/or increasingly this may be a sign of abuse. Also, signs of intoxication during class, during interaction with faculty or staff, or in risky situations such as while driving a car are indicative of a problem that requires attention.

5. Suicidal Thoughts
Most people who attempt suicide communicate early messages about their distress. These messages can range from “I don’t want to be here”, to a series of vague “good-byes”, to “I’m going to kill myself.” Non-verbal messages could include giving away valued items, and putting legal, financial, and other affairs in order. All of the above messages should be taken seriously.

6. Violence and Aggression
You may become aware of students who may be dangerous to others. This may be manifested by physically violent behavior, verbal threats, threatening e-mail or letters, harassing or stalking behavior, and papers or exams that contain violent or threatening material.