Signs of a Problem

As a faculty or staff member who may have regular contact with students, you are in a good position to recognize when a student is in distress. A student's behavior, especially if it is inconsistent with your previous observations, could be a sign that the student is struggling and needs help.

Signs suggesting a student may be in distress


  • Not attending classes
  • Increased dependence on a faculty/staff member (e.g., making numerous appointments, hanging around your office or after class)
  • Excessive procrastination
  • Uncharacteristically poor school work
  • Inconsistent school work
  • Repeated requests for special consideration
  • Repeated confiding in faculty/staff about personal problems
  • Worrisome or unusually personal content presented verbally or in written assignments
  • Behavior that regularly disrupts class
  • Complaints from other students about the student in question
  • Repeated lateness to class
  • Falling asleep in class

Behavioral (what you observe):

  • Significant change in physical appearance (e.g., poor grooming or hygiene, excessive change in weight)
  • Excessive energy (e.g., loud tone of voice, high level of activity, rapid speech)
  • Inability to focus in a conversation or activity
  • Thinking or speech that is disorganized, difficult to follow, or aggressive
  • Strong mistrust of other people
  • Violent or aggressive outbursts
  • Irritable, sad, or depressed mood
  • Reference to suicide or homicide (verbally or in written communication; direct or indirect)
  • Threatening to others
  • Inappropriate responses and/or display of intense emotion
  • Slurred speech, unsteady gate, or other indications of substance use

Student’s Experience (what is reported to you):

  • Changes in eating or sleeping patterns
  • Excessive alcohol or drug use and/or an increase in substance use
  • Tearfulness, irritability, excessive sadness
  • Isolating or increased anti-social behaviors
  • Engaging in high risk behaviors (e.g., driving recklessly, engaging in risky sexual behavior, thrill seeking)
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Difficulty concentrating or feeling motivated
  • Feeling helpless or hopeless
  • High anxiety or restlessness
  • Suicidal or homicidal thinking or behavior

If you would like to discuss any concerns or questions that you have about a student, please contact the Counseling Center 508-626-4640 and we will be happy to assist you.