Students In Distress: Commonly Asked Questions
How can I tell if a student is in distress?
- Depressed mood & lethargy
- Hyperactivity or rapid speech
- Unexplained crying, irritability, anxiety, or anger
- Lowering of academic performance, changes in attendance or participation, decreased ability to concentrate
- Changes in personal hygiene, dress, or appetite
- Strange or bizarre behavior indicating loss of contact with reality
- Talking or writing about suicide or homicide
- Highly disruptive behavior (e.g., hostility, aggression, and violence)
What can I do for a student in distress?
- Arrange to talk with the student outside of class time and express your concerns in terms of specific behaviors.
- Listen to thoughts and feelings in a sensitive, nonjudgmental way.
- Use direct but non-threatening terms. It is better to state your concern directly than to ignore the behaviors.
- Take all suicidal/homicidal expressions seriously and seek immediate help from the Texas Tech Police Department.
- Tell the student that help is available and that seeking help is a sign of strength.
- Make the appropriate referral(s). Students should make their own appointments if possible. You could offer to walk the student to the appropriate office or allow them to use your phone to schedule an immediate appointment.
- Follow-up is an important part of the process. Check with the student later to find out how he or she is progressing and if they followed through with the referral.
How do I address inappropriate classroom behavior that may be related to a student in distress?
- Clearly establish classroom behavioral expectations in your syllabus and address behavioral problems accordingly. For suggestions on syllabus wording or tips on maintaining civility in the classroom, refer to the Student Judicial Programs website and the Civility in the Classroom brochure at www.depts.ttu.edu/studentjudicialprograms.
- The Texas Tech Police Department is available to assist with threats of violence, physical or verbal abuse and uncooperative students (refusing to leave class). Report suspected illegal activity such as physical and verbal abuse to university police. If a student expresses a direct threat to themselves or others, or acts in a bizarre, highly irrational or disruptive way, call the Texas Tech Police Department at (806) 742-3931 or 9-911 in case of emergencies.
- Behavioral issues and classroom disruptions, even those related to mental health, can be referred to Student Judicial Programs, where disciplinary sanctions may result. In addition, document the incident with your student records and inform your department chair of disruptive activity and student concerns.
I've heard about FERPA and HIPAA. Should I be concerned about issues of confidentiality, FERPA, HIPAA when assisting a distressed student?
- FERPA refers to the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act. FERPA is a Federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. For more information on FERPA, contact Student Judicial Programs at 742-1714.
- HIPAA refers to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. HIPAA addresses the security and privacy of health data. For more information on HIPAA, contact Student Health Services at 743-2860.
- It is important to inform students that all contacts with the Student Counseling Center or Student Health Services are confidential. Information about contact with these offices can
only be released with the student's written request, in circumstances where there is clear and present danger to the student or others, or other specific conditions allowed by law.
- Issues of confidentiality should not be a deterrent to talking with a student about your concerns. In addition, issues of confidentiality should not hinder you from calling any office to discuss a student you are concerned about or for suggestions on how to work with a student in
crisis. While these offices can only share student information within the limits of the law, it is important as campus colleagues to have open lines of communication about pertinent student information and increasingly important to discuss issues for the benefit of students and the campus community.