Texas Tech University

Identifying and Assisting Students in Distress

The purpose of this section is to assist faculty members and staff in their efforts to enhance the educational and personal achievements of students. Included is information about the Student Counseling Center, referrals information and information on effectively assisting Texas Tech University students.

Identifying Students in Distress:

There are a variety of behaviors that may indicate that a student is in distress. These behaviors include: avoidance of classroom participation, domination of discussions, excessive anxiety when called upon, exaggerated emotional responses inappropriate to the situation, sudden changes in classroom behavior (attendance, grades, or attention changes), depressed or lethargic mood, hyperactivity or very rapid speech, unexplained crying, irritability or angry outbursts, changes in personal hygiene or dress, dramatic weight loss or gain, strange or bizarre behavior indicating loss of contact with reality, expression of thoughts of helplessness or hopelessness, and overt references to suicidal and homicidal threats.

How Can You Help?:

If you choose to approach a student about whom you have concerns or if a student reaches out to you for help for personal problems, be aware that there is no “perfect formula” for interacting with a distressed student. People have different capacities for dealing with others' problem. It is very important to know your personal limits as a helper.

It is also important to be mindful that there are times when effectively listening, offering encouragement, and empathizing with the student can help the student feel cared about as an individual and more confident in his or her ability to make decisions during stressful times.

Here are some suggestions that might assist you when interacting with a distressed student:

  • Approach the student respectfully and ask to speak in private when both of you have the time.
  • Give the student your undivided attention.
  • Listen to the student's thoughts and feelings in a sensitive, non-threatening way.
  • If you have initiated contact with the student, express your concern in behavioral, non-judgmental terms (For example, “I've noticed you've been absent from class lately, and I'm concerned.”)
  • Communicate that you understand the student by repeating back the essence of what the student has told you. Try to include both content and feelings (For example, “It sounds like you're not accustomed to such a big campus, and you're feeling left out of things.”)
  • Behavior that is strange or inappropriate should not be ignored. Comment directly about what you have observed.
  • Do not discuss your concerns with other students.

How to make a Referral to the Student Counseling Center

Student Counseling Center