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FACULTY AND STAFF GUIDE: ASSISTING DISTRESSED STUDENTS  

Although the college years can be the best years for students, they also can be the most stressful. While the majority of students adequately cope with the demands of college life, some stresses become unmanageable and interfere with learning. 

 

Students may feel distress, frustration, helplessness, anger and/or depression; may be unable to deal with situations; and may not know where to get assistance. As faculty and staff members, you may be the first ones to identify students who are in distress. Your expressions of concern and support may be the critical factor in helping a distressed student. It is also important that you communicate your observations appropriately.

The following is designed to guide AACC faculty and staff to recognize and identify some of the symptoms of student distress and to provide you with information on intervention and referral. Counseling, Advising and Retention Services (CARS) is available to consult with you on a particular student’s intervention and to assist students in distress.


IDENTIFYING SOME COMMON SIGNS OF DISTRESS:

Academic

  • Decline in coursework and class participation
  • Continuous or escalating inappropriate behavior
  • Disruptive classroom behavior
  • Repeated requests for exceptions to class policy
  • Frequent absences from class
  • Creative work or writings indicating hopelessness, despair, anger or isolation
  • Inability to make decisions

Threat to Safety

  • Homicidal or suicidal threats expressed verbally or in writing (e.g. assignments, papers, etc.)
  • Behavior cues suggesting a suicide plan (e.g. giving away possessions, suicide note, accessing means to kill oneself, etc.)
  • Violent or disruptive behavior
  • Stalking behaviors

Personal/Interpersonal

  • Changes in patterns of social interaction
  • Changes in patterns of communication
  • Stated insomnia
  • Unexplained crying or angry outbursts
  • Irritability, agitation, unusual hyperactivity
  • Statements conveying excessive or irrational worrying
  • Hallucinating
  • Garbled, slurred, or rambling speech
  • Verbal expression of shame, guilt and/or poor self-esteem
  • Paranoia
  • Statements about homelessness

Physical

  • Dramatic weight loss or gain
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Evidence of substance/alcohol abuse
  • Deterioration in personal appearance

Continued