Understanding Your Role

Many students, realizing that stress is interfering with their personal and academic goals, seek counseling on their own. Faculty, teaching assistants and university staff are often the first to recognize that a student might not be functioning well academically and/or emotionally.

As faculty and staff, you are in an excellent position to spot the emotionally distressed student. The student's behavior, especially if inconsistent with your experience of them, could be "a cry for help." It is important to note that both situational and developmental problems can interfere with a student's academic performance.

Did You Know?

  • Nearly half of all college students report feeling so depressed at some point in time that they have trouble functioning. (American Psychological Association, 2008)
  • Suicide is the third leading cause of death for those aged 15-24 and the second leading cause of death of college students. (American Psychological Association, 2008)
  • Almost 40% of the men and 50% of the women reported feeling so depressed that they had difficulty functioning one or more times during the last school year. (American College Health Association survey, 2004)
  • 10% of the students reported seriously considering attempting suicide at least one time during the last school year. (American College Health Association survey, 2004)

Life Situations/Transitions That Can Affect Students

  • Financial worries
  • Leaving home
  • Being on their own for the first time
  • Wanting to do well academically
  • Difficulties setting priorities and managing time
  • Foreign born students may struggle with language
  • Different culture from ones own
  • Death of a loved one
  • Changes in close relationships (breaking up)
  • Changes in family relationships
  • Friendship and/or roommate problems
  • Serious illness, self or others

Signs of Student Emotional Distress You Might Observe

  • Nervousness
  • Agitation
  • Increased irritability, undue aggressive or abusive behavior
  • Excessive procrastination, poorly prepared work
  • Infrequent class attendance; little or no work completed
  • Depression, lack of energy
  • Marked change in personal hygiene
  • Withdrawal, fearfulness
  • Dependency (e.g., the student who hangs around you or makes excessive appointments to see you)
  • Indecisiveness, confusion
  • Bizarre, alarming or dangerous behaviors