Behaviors and Responses

Physical

Sometimes physical symptoms present themselves even when a student is not sick with a medical illness.

  • Flat affect or extreme lack of responsiveness
  • Fatigue, lack of energy, or falling asleep in class
  • Deterioration in physical appearance, hygiene, or weight
  • Evidence of self-injury or abuse
  • Evidence of alcohol or drug abuse

Mental and Emotional

Mental and emotional health are important parts of being a well-balanced and successful student.

  • Tearfulness and extreme or prolonged sadness or anxiety
  • Overt or indirect expressions of intent to harm or kill oneself or others

Academic

Physical and mental health problems can negatively affect a student's academic performance.

  • Changes in motivation or concentration
  • Deterioration in quality of work
  • Excessive class absenteeism
  • Repeated missed/late assignments or requests for extensions
  • Alarming or disturbing content in writing or class discussions
  • Decrease in or lack of engagement in group or participation-oriented classes

Social

If you notice changes in happiness, specifically when it comes to a student's social life, there might be a more serious underlying concern.

  • Difficulty working with others or connecting with peers
  • Hostility/irritability toward professor or peers
  • Threatening words or actions
  • Extreme rudeness or insubordination to University officials, staff, faculty, or administrators
  • Avoidance of friends or loved ones

Appropriate Responses

  • Ask the student to connect privately.  
  • Be direct and let the student know what you have noticed or why you are concerned. 
  • Ask open-ended questions (“How are things going for you this semester?”). Open-ended questions encourage communication and allow the student to tell their story. 
  • Listen to the student’s response and do not be scared off by an emotional response; talking about a problem or labeling a crisis is the first step toward resolving it.
  • Be careful not to promise to keep information confidential. Let the student know you can offer them privacy but not confidentiality (“I may need to share this information with others if I feel there is a safety risk or other serious concern.”).
  • Identify Campus Resources that could help the student.
  • If the student agrees to go to one of these offices, notify that office before the student arrives, indicate the level of urgency and reason for your referral, and offer to accompany the student to the office.
  • Let the student know you’ll be checking back in with them to see how things are going and follow-up with the student.
  • Set boundaries around further concerning behavior, if appropriate.