Helping Your Student in Distress
You may be one of the first individuals to notice that something is wrong or that a student is distressed. Although emotional distress may be expected during stressful times throughout the semester, you may notice that your student is acting out of character or in ways that are inconsistent with their previous behavior. You may be a resource in times of trouble, and your expression of interest and concern may be critical in helping your student regain emotional stability. You may also be in a good position to assist your student in accessing campus and community resources so that appropriate interventions can occur.
Signs of Possible Distress
- Marked change in performance or behavior
- Trouble eating and/or sleeping
- Disruptive behavior
- Undue aggressiveness
- Exaggerated emotional response that is disproportionate to the situation
- Depressed or lethargic mood
- Hyperactivity or very rapid speech
- Marked change in personal hygiene
- Excessive confusion
- Dramatic weight loss or gain
- Dependency (e.g., individual spends an inordinate amount of time around you)
- Behavior indicating loss of contact with reality
- Feelings of helplessness or hopelessness
- References to suicide
- References to homicide or assault
- Isolation from friends, family, or classmates
- Giving away personal or prized possessions
- Preparing for death by making a will and final arrangements
- DO trust your intuition.
- DO speak with the individual privately and express your willingness to help directly and non-judgmentally.
- DO let him/her know you are concerned about his/her welfare.
- DO listen carefully to what the individual is upset about; actively listen.
- DO acknowledge the feelings of the individual; help explore options.
- DO point out that help is available and that seeking help is a sign of strength and courage, rather than weakness or failure.
- DO suggest resources; make personal referrals when possible, and call ahead to brief the person.
- DO maintain clear and consistent boundaries and expectations; recognize your own limits.
- DO call 911 if you are concerned for your immediate safety or that of others, or if the individual needs immediate attention.
- DO consult with an appropriate mental health resource if you are concerned for the individual but they are not a danger to themselves (e.g., sexual assault, recent loss).
- DO refer an individual to an appropriate campus or community resource for support related to personal or academic issues. When in doubt, call the Dean of Students.
- DON’T ignore the unusual behavior.
- DON’T minimize the situation.
- DON’T ignore warning signs about the individual’s safety or the safety of others.
- DON’T promise confidentiality.
- DON’T judge or criticize.
- DON’T make the problem your own.
- DON’T involve yourself beyond the limits of your time, skill, or emotional well-being.
For information on helping your student get connected to mental health services and recommendations for addressing safety concerns, please check out our Referring a Student page.
COUNSELING AND PSYCHOLOGICAL SERVICES (CAPS)
KENT STATE UNIVERSITY POLICE SERVICES
COLEMAN HEALTH SERVICES
Coleman Health Services
TOWNHALL II HELPLINE
Townhall II Helpline
PORTAGE COUNTY RAPE CRISIS CENTER
Portage County Rape Crisis Center
CRISIS TEXT LINE
Text 4HOPE to 741741
NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION LIFELINE
[Veterans, press 1]
THE TREVOR LIFELINE: PREVENTING SUICIDE AMONG LGBTQ YOUTH