Assisting students of concern


Helping students of concern

Invite the student to talk with you in a time and place which allows for privacy. You may need to indicate to the student that you are concerned as a rationale for the meeting.

Start by asking the student such as the following:

  • "How are you doing?"
  • "How are classes going?"

Share your observations and the fact that you are concerned about the student. State your concerns in direct, matter-of-fact statements. If the student minimizes or questions your concerns, be gently honest in pointing out the contrasts between the student's self-report and your observations (or reports from others).

If student acknowledges that issues are there, then the goal is to connect student with appropriate help. You may refer to our resources section and suggest resource as appropriate. If the student is reluctant to discuss issues and you have no immediate safety concern, suggest another meeting in a day or two.

If you believe you cannot allow the student to leave your presence without immediate risk of self-harm, tell the student. Then, call 911.

  • Possible causes of student distress
    • Family problems
    • Financial difficulties
    • Relationship issues
    • Academic difficulties
    • History of emotional disturbances (e.g., depression, alcohol, drug abuse, eating disorder, anxiety, suicide attempts)
    • Traumatic family event(s) such as recent separation or divorce of parents, serious illness or death of family member, physical, emotional, or sexual abuse at home
    • Recent loss of an important person (either by death or by separation/break-up)
    • Recent loss of esteem
    • Previous period of poor functioning
  • Possible signs of student distress
    • Social isolation, withdrawal, lethargy
    • Inability to focus on a specific topic in a conversation or activity
    • Disorganized thinking and speech, feelings that are inappropriate to the situation, lack of affect, or other evidence that student is “out of touch with reality”
    • Expression of feelings of persecution, strong mistrust of others
    • Violent outbursts
    • Signs of excessive alcohol or drug use
    • Expressions of general unhappiness over a period of several weeks
    • Frequent class absence or “disappearance” over extended periods
    • Gain or loss of significant amounts of weight
    • Abrupt change in manner, style, or personal hygiene
    • Increasing dependence on you (by making excessive appointments, hanging around your office or after class) or others