Recognizing Students in Distress

SHU students have many challenges to deal with during their college experience.  In addition to academic stress, there may be other stressors such as being away from home, developing new relationships, handling the responsibilities of independent living, making decisions about a major, and career planning.

Stressors often manifest as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, alcohol and other drug abuse, and poor academic performance.  Early identification of such issues can be an important factor in keeping our students safe while helping them reach their full potential.

Faculty, staff and administrators are in an excellent position to recognize students having difficulty and are often the first to initiate help for students in distress.

How to identify Students of Concern

Is there evidence of academic concern?

  • A problem with grades, shift in academic performance, poor reality
  • An inability to concentrate or negative or erratic change in classroom performance
  • Excessive absences
  • Continual seeking of special accommodations
  • Essays or creative work indicate extremes of hopelessness, social isolations, anger, rage, despair suicide or death

Is there evidence of physical concern?

  • Deterioration in physical appearance
  • Poor hygiene
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Alcohol or other drug abuse (red or swollen eyes, disorientation)
  • Self injurious behavior
  • Depression, lethargy, poor self esteem
  • Hostility or aggression

Is their evidence of a relationship concern?

  • Direct statements indicating distress or relationship problems
  • Unprovoked anger or hostility
  • Unusual or marked changes in behavior (overly emotional, anxious, distracted, argumentative or avoiding social contact)
  • Withdrawn or more animated than usual
  • Tearfulness
  • Expressions of hopelessness or worthlessness
  • Peer expressions of concern
  • A gut-level reaction that something is wrong.
  • Indirect or direct suicidal or homicidal thoughts, threats, or actions
How to Intervene
  • Talk to the student in private
  • Specifically state your reasons for concern
  • Be gentle, caring, and nonjudgmental
  • Listen carefully

Assisting a student of concern:

  • Acknowledge and discuss the student’s fears and concerns
  • If you feel a student may benefit from counseling, inform student that the SHU Counseling Center is free and confidential
  • Check back periodically to show interest and assess progress

Assisting a student in crisis:

  • Encourage the student to talk about what is happening and attempt to calm him/her
  • Remain calm and use a low and controlled tone of voice
  • Explain to the student that you would feel more comfortable having the student talk with a professional counselor.  You may walk the student to the Counseling Center or request that a clinician meet the student in your office in an emergency.
  • Call the Counseling Center at 203-371-7955 and inform the receptionist of your plan.
  • If after hours, call Public Safety at 203-371-7911 and they will contact the counselor on call.  The Counseling Center has a counselor on-call after business hours and on the weekends.
  • Do not leave student alone until help is available.

If a student resists your help or referral and you remain uncomfortable with a situation, please contact the Counseling Center for consultation and/or to assess the student of concern’s situation with our professional staff.

We thank you for taking these active steps to protect the health and safety and well-being of our students.