Concerned About A Student

Explore the Counseling Center’s tips for recognizing and responding to students in crisis.

College students typically encounter a great deal of stress (academic, social, family, work and/or financial) during the course of their educational experience. While most students cope successfully with the demands of college life, for some the pressures can become overwhelming and unmanageable.

All of us at some time in our lives may have hard days. However, significant distress experienced over a period of time may suggest a more serious problem. Given the increase of the stressors, anxiety, depression and other serious mental health issues that college students experience, we are encouraging all faculty and staff members to assist students by utilizing these tips.

The tips provide guidance on how to recognize behaviors and symptoms of stressed, distressed, disturbed and dysregulated students and how to provide referrals to a student you are concerned about.

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Stressed Students

These students usually display behaviors that do not disrupt others or even the class.  Students who are stressed, may be stressed for a variety of reasons that could include:  feelings of not belonging or being isolated and/or homesick, being academically unprepared, having financial problems, personal or family issues, falling behind in classes, and struggling with finding a balance between extra-curricular activities, work, one’s personal life and school.

  • Exhibiting changes in body symptoms: stress headaches, back or chest pain, upset stomach, trouble sleeping.
  • Increased feelings of anxiety, restlessness, worrying, forgetfulness, lack of focus or trouble concentrating.
  • Loss or increase of appetite
  • Social withdraw or isolation
  • Conflict with peers, significant others, friends, etc.

If a student wants to talk:

  • Accept and respect what is said
  • Help determine what needs to be done or changed
  • Try to focus on an aspect of the problem that is manageable
  • Avoid giving advice, judging, evaluating, and/or criticizing
  • Avoid easy answers such as, “Everything will be all right”
  • Help the student recall constructive methods used in the past to cope; get the person to agree to do something constructive to change
  • Offer yourself as a caring person until professional assistance has been obtained
  • Trust your insight and reactions
  • Attempt to address the student’s needs and seek appropriate resources
  • Avoid contributing unnecessarily to the student’s guilt or sense of failure
  • Do not swear secrecy or offer confidentially to the student
  • Encourage the student to seek help
  • Respect the student’s value system, even if you don’t agree
  • When called for, let the student know you are worried about his/her safety
  • If you are concerned the student may be feeling hopeless and thinking about suicide, ask if he/she is contemplating suicide. It is important to remember that talking about suicide is a cry for help and is not to be ignored. Ask specific questions and then contact the University Police with the following information:
    • What the thoughts of suicide are?
    • Is there a plan to end one’s life?
    • Has the student made a recent attempt?
    • How long the thoughts of suicide have been occurring for the student?
    • After the student leaves your office, make some notes documenting your interactions in case you need to explain this to a professional. The more details you provide, the better the provision of care for the student.
    • Consult with others regarding your experience

Mildly Troubled (Distressed) Students

These students may exhibit behaviors that do not disrupt others but may indicate something is wrong and that assistance is needed.

  • Serious grade problems or a change from consistently passing grades to unaccountably poor performance
  • Excessive absences, especially if students have previously demonstrated consistent attendance
  • Unusual or markedly changed patterns of interaction including avoidance of participation, excessive anxiety when called upon, domination of discussion, etc.
  • Emotionally troubling characteristics that suggest students are having trouble managing stress successfully i.e., a depressed, lethargic mood, very rapid speech, swollen and/or red eyes, marked change in personal dress and hygiene, falling asleep during class, etc.
  • Mild or inconsistent symptoms typically characteristic of a psychological disorder i.e., mood swings, inattention, lethargy
  • Frequent and unrealistic need for attention from instructor
  • Inability to recognize and respect appropriate boundaries
  • Appears generally angry at the world, blames others for problems

For these behaviors or problems, you can choose to handle them in the following ways:

  • Provide information about where a person can get help. This can often be the best kind of help.
  • Offer to make contact with the Counseling Center on the student’s behalf by calling (219) 989-2366.
  • Talk it over with a colleague or department chair person
  • Depending on the situation, consider involving police
  • If your concern is ignored, and the student escalates, contact the Student Behavioral Intervention Team (SBIT)
  • Document in writing what you have observed, the interaction and recommendations suggested.
  • Complete the Student of Concern Form through the Office of the Dean of Students.

Moderately Troubled (Disturbed) Students

These students may exhibit behaviors that indicate significant emotional distress. They may also be reluctant or unable to acknowledge a need for personal help.

  • Repeated requests for special consideration, such as deadline extensions, especially if students appear uncomfortable or highly emotional while disclosing the circumstances prompting the request
  • New or repeated behaviors that push the limits of decorum and interferes with effective management of the immediate environment.  An example might be repeated “off topic” questions during a lecture(s)
  • Unusual or exaggerated emotional responses which are obviously inappropriate to the situation
  • Unusual and/or bizarre behavior
  • Suspected substance use and/or abuse. Ask specific questions and then contact University Police with the following information:
    • What the thoughts of suicide are?
    • Is there a plan to end one’s life?
    • Has the student made a recent attempt?
    • How long the thoughts of suicide have been occurring for the student?

For these behaviors or problems, you can choose to handle them in the following ways:

  • Provide information about where a person can get help.  This can often be the best kind of help.
  • Offer to make contact with the Counseling Center on the student’s behalf by calling 219-989-2366.
  • Talk it over with a colleague or department chair person
  • Depending on the situation, consider involving the University Police
  • If your concern is ignored, and the student escalates, contact the Student Behavioral Intervention Team (SBIT)
  • Document in writing what you have observed, the interaction and recommendations suggested
  • Complete the Student of Concern Form through the Office of the Dean of Students.

Severely Troubled/Disruptive Students (Dysregulated)

These students may exhibit behaviors that signify an obvious crisis that necessitate emergency care. These problems are the easiest to identify.

  • Highly disruptive behavior i.e., hostility, aggression, violence, abusive relationships, etc.
  • Deficits in skills or functions that regulate emotion i.e., cognition, emotion, behavior, and relationships
  • Inability to communicate clearly i.e., garbled, slurred speech, disconnected, disjointed, or rambling thoughts
  • Loss of contact with reality i.e., seeing or hearing things that others cannot see or hear, beliefs or actions greatly at odds with reality or probability such as visual, auditory and olfactory hallucinations
  • Stalking behaviors
  • Inappropriate communications i.e., threatening letters, e-mails, harassment, etc.
  • Harms others, destroys property, etc.
  • Overtly suicidal thoughts such as:
  • Suicidal ideation, suicide attempts or suicidal acts
  • Referring to suicide as a current option or in a written assignment
  • Ask specific questions and then contact University Police with the following information:
    • What the thoughts of suicide are?
    • Is there a plan to end one’s life?
    • Has the student made a recent attempt?
    • How long the thoughts of suicide have been occurring for the student?

For these behaviors or problems, you can choose to handle them in the following ways:

  • Remain calm and know who to call for help, if necessary.  Find someone to stay with the students while calls to the appropriate resources are made.
  • Remember that it is NOT your responsibility to provide the professional help needed for a severely troubled/disruptive student.  You need only to make the necessary call and request assistance.
  • When students express a direct threat to themselves or others, or act in a bizarre, highly irrational or disruptive way, call the University Police emergency phone number (see below) or call 911.
  • Hammond Campus: (219) 989-2220
  • Westville Campus: (219) 785-5220
  • Document in writing what you have observed, the interaction and recommendations suggested
  • Complete the Student of Concern Form through the Office of the Dean of Students.

Campus Resources

If you have questions or are uncertain about a student, please contact one of the resources listed below.  Each of these offices serves as consultants and resources to faculty, staff and students.

Counseling Center
The Counseling Center is a comprehensive service established to serve the Purdue University Northwest campus.

The Career Center
The Career Center assists individuals with writing résumés and cover letters, mock interviews, networking opportunities, job search assistance and career-related advice.

Veteran Services
Veteran Services is designed to create a community of university personnel, students and community agencies to provide support to veterans and student service members in completing their educational goals.

Housing and Residential Education
The staff in Housing and Residential Education work with residents to promote the development of residential communities in which courtesy, respect and consideration for others is paramount.

McNair Program
Participants in the McNair Program are college students from disadvantaged backgrounds who have demonstrated strong academic potential.

Disability Access Center
Students with documented physical, learning or emotional disabilities are eligible for appropriate accommodations once they provide acceptable disability documentation.

Equity, Diversity & Inclusion
The Equity, Diversity & Inclusion goal is to create an atmosphere and environment that is diverse, inclusive and open-minded.

Student Academic Support
The Office of Student Academic Support offers free tutoring and supplemental instructors in a variety of university disciplines.

Student Life
Student Life engages students through various campus activities and houses new student orientation, co-curricular transcripts and student ID cards.

University Police
A safe and secure campus environment is the top priority for University Police.

Writing Center
The Writing Center provides services to all students, faculty and staff to assist them with their writing endeavors.

Office of the Dean of Students
The Office of the Dean of Students promotes responsibility, accepting consequences of behavior and encourages honesty, integrity and respect among members of the Purdue University Northwest community.

The PNW campus lion is pictured.

Stalking Behavior

The Counseling Center has tips and recommendations for how to deal with stalking behavior.

Explore The Recommendations

The PNW campus lion is pictured.

Stalking Behavior

The Counseling Center has tips and recommendations for how to deal with stalking behavior.

Explore The Recommendations