Warning Signs of a Student in Distress

Any one of the following indicators alone does not necessarily suggest that a student is experiencing severe distress. However, several of the signs taken together may well indicate that the student needs or may be asking for help.

Academic Indicators

  • Deterioration in quality of work
  • Missed assignments or appointments
  • Repeated absence from class or laboratory
  • Continual seeking of unusual accommodations (extensions, postponed examinations)
  • Essays or papers that have themes of hopelessness, social isolation, rage, or despair
  • Acting withdrawn
  • Inappropriate disruption or monopolization of classroom

Physical or Psychological Indicators

  • Deterioration in physical appearance or personal hygiene
  • Excessive fatigue or sleep difficulties
  • Unusual weight gain or loss
  • Exaggerated personality traits or behaviors (e.g. agitation, withdrawal, lack of apparent emotion)
  • Unprovoked anger or hostility
  • Irritability, constant anxiety or tearfulness
  • Marked changes in concentration and motivation

Other Factors to Consider

  • Direct statements indicating family problems, personal losses such as death of a family member, or the break-up of a relationship
  • Expressions of concern about a student by peers
  • Written statements or verbalization of hopelessness, futility or lack of energy
  • Your own sense, however vague that something is seriously amiss with the student