HELPING & IDENTIFYING STUDENTS IN EMOTIONAL DISTRESS
Faculty and staff members are usually the first persons in a college community to observe students who are experiencing personal distress. Some indications of a student experiencing problems are agitated behavior or withdrawal. Students may also reveal problems through personal communication to the faculty, both oral and written. The following general descriptions are made to help faculty recognize and refer students who present with behavioral or emotional problems.
- The student speaks out in class without waiting to be recognized
- The student interrupts other students or the instructor
- The student walks around the classroom/ comes and goes often
- The student appears emotionally volatile, loses his/her temper, cries easily, or uses profane language
- The student comes in late, pushes chairs around and becomes disruptive when taking a seat
- The student is excessively absent or frequently late
- The student sits in the back of the room and/or does not participate in class. (Keep in mind that cultural factors, as well as anxiety about speaking in class, may inhibit student participation.)
- The student frequently displays drowsiness or sleeps in class.
- The student frequently daydreams as exemplified by inappropriate responses when asked a question
- The student is engrossed in other reading in class
- The student might have a vacant stare
It is important to try to resist the temptation to “profile” students. However, as faculty you are in an excellent position to recognize behavior changes in a troubled student. A student’s concerning behavior may be a “cry for help”. Student behaviors exist along a continuum that can range in level of concern and severity from distressed, disturbing, disruptive, and dangerous.
Because of the enormous emotional and social transitions experienced while in college, it is likely that most students will grapple with a host of issues during their college years. Some of these issues may include fitting in socially, handling problems at home, grief, sexual assault, anxiety, depression, relationship issues, issues of sexual identity, sleep problems, and many more such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, etc. The goal is to identify who is in need of services and help them to receive assistance!
Research has indicated that students who reported having significant emotional problems over the previous year and had more functional relationships with their advisors were more likely to use mental health services.