Recognizing Distress

As a faculty or staff member, you are an integral part of the campus community. Faculty and staff may be in positions where they are able to identify students who are in crisis, as well as provide referrals and support to students who are recovering from a trauma. The following information may provide you with guidance in recognizing and helping a student in distress.

Indicators of Distress

Below are general indicators that a student may be having difficulty coping with a trauma such as sexual assault.

Academic Indicators

  • Deterioration in quality of work
  • A drop in grades
  • A negative change in classroom performance
  • Missed assignments
  • Repeated absences from class
  • Disorganized or erratic performance
  • Continual seeking of special accommodations (extensions, postponed examination)
  • Essays or creative work portraying extremes of hopelessness, social isolation, rage, or despair

Interpersonal Indicators

  • Direct statements indicating distress or other difficulties
  • Unprovoked anger or hostility
  • Exaggerated personality traits (more withdrawn or more animated than usual)
  • Excessive dependency
  • Expression of hopelessness or worthlessness
  • Peers expressing concern about a fellow student
  • If you have a hunch or gut-level reaction that something is wrong

Physical Indicators

  • Deterioration in physical appearance
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Visible changes in weight
  • Indications of substance abuse or chemical dependency

Safety Risk Indicators

  • Any written note or verbal statement which has a sense of finality or suicidal ideation
  • Essays or papers that focus on hopelessness, helplessness, despair, suicide, or death
  • Severe depression
  • Self-destructive or self-injurious behaviors
  • Any other behavior which seems out of control or extreme

What You Can Do

  • You may call University Psychological Services for a consultation about the student. The staff will be glad to talk with you about any worries or concerns you may have.
  • Create an Early Alert report through Flashline.
  • You can discuss your concerns with the student and listen to the response. Talking about a problem or labeling a crisis does not make it worse. It is the first step toward resolving it.
  • If the student discloses a incident of sexual assault, relationship violence or stalking, you can refer the student to the Office of Sexual and Relationship Violence Support Services (SRVSS Office)
  • The Students Ombuds an assist you and the student to navigate academic policies, issues and concerns.
  • Report a student of concern to the dean of students by calling 330.672.4050.

Issues to Consider

  • It is acceptable to stay "in role" as a faculty/staff member. Refer the students to the resources that are in place to help.
  • Remember, if you encounter a student who has been sexually assaulted, it is ultimately up to him/her to decide how to heal. Being supportive and suggesting options will empower students by allowing them to regain control over their lives.
  • If you are in doubt or have questions, please contact the SRVSS Office (330) 672-8016 for further information.
  • The SRVSS Office can also provide consultations, technical training, curriculum ideas, and special presentations on power-based personal violence (sexual assault, relationship violence or stalking) and related issues.