Identifying and Responding to Students of Concern

Signs and Symptoms for Students of Concern

  • Erratic behavior, including infrequent class attendance or failure to follow through with responsibilities.
  • Increasing dependence on a faculty or staff member, parent, or other person (by demanding excessive amounts of time and attention).
  • 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, or other evidence that a student is “out of touch with reality”.
  • Expression of feelings of persecution, paranoia, or strong mistrust of others.
  • Disruptive, explosive or disrespectful behavior.
  • Signs of excessive alcohol or drug use.
  • Abrupt change in manner, style, or personal hygiene.
  • Overtly suicidal thoughts and/or statements expressed verbally or in writing.
  • Statements about harming someone else.
  • Expressed uncertainty and anxiety about emotional stability, family situation, and/or relationship problems.

Guidelines for Responding to a Student of Concern

  • Share your interest and concern openly and directly.
  • Set clear limits about your role with the student.
  • Maintain a student’s privacy, but do not promise confidentiality.
  • Help a student tell his or her story. Offer the opportunity to listen to what is on his or her mind.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of what the student discloses.
  • Statements made by the student regarding an intention or plan to harm self or others must be reported.
  • Inquire as to how the student is attempting to respond to the problem. Help develop response options together.
  • Consult with peers, colleagues, supervisors, deans, Counseling Center staff, Dean of Students Office or others if you need additional perspectives before or after talking to the student.
  • Suggest a referral to the Counseling Center, Student Health Center, Dean of Students Office, or other community resources.
  • Follow up as appropriate.