Students typically encounter a great deal of stress during their university years (i.e., academic, social, family, and work, financial). While most students cope successfully with the demands of university life, for some the pressures can become overwhelming and unmanageable. Students may feel alone, isolated, helpless and even hopeless. These feelings can easily disrupt academic performance and may result in harmful behaviors such as substance abuse and attempts at suicide.
Faculty, staff members and even other students are in a unique position to identify and help those who are in distress.This may be particularly true for students who cannot or will not turn to family or friends. Anyone who is seen as caring and trustworthy may be a potential resource in times of trouble. Your expression of interest and concern may be a critical factor in helping struggling students reestablish emotional equilibrium, thus saving their academic careers or even their lives.
Tips for Recognizing Distressed Students
At one time or another, everyone feels depressed or upset. The following may help to identify some symptoms which, when present over a period of time, suggest that the problems with which the person is dealing are more than the “normal” ones.
Marked Change in Academic Performance or Behavior
· Poor performance and preparation
· Excessive absences or tardiness
· Repeated requests for special consideration especially when this represents a change from previous functioning
· Avoiding participation
· Dominating discussions
· Excessively anxious when called upon
· Disruptive behavior
· Exaggerated emotional response that is obviously inappropriate to the situation
Unusual Behavior or Appearance
· Depressed or lethargic mood
· Hyperactivity or very rapid speech
· Deterioration in personal hygiene or dress
· Dramatic weight loss or gain
· Strange or bizarre behavior indicating loss of contact with reality
References to Emotional or Life Stressors
· Problems with roommates, family, or romantic partners
· Experiencing a death of a significant other
· Experiencing a physical or sexual assault
· Experiencing discrimination based on gender, race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or disabilities
· Experiencing legal difficulties
· Any other problem or situation that is experienced as a loss or stress
References to Suicide, Homicide or Death
· Feelings of helplessness or hopelessness
· Verbal or written references to suicide
· Verbal or written references to homicide or assaultive behavior
· Isolation from friends, family and classmates
What Can You Do?
If you choose to approach a student or person you are concerned about or if an individual reaches out to you for help with personal problems, here are some suggestions which might make the opportunity more comfortable for you.
It is important to be aware that options for referral vary depending on the time of day. Counseling is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. for appointments and crisis intervention. After hours, Northeast Counseling Services is an agency that provides 24 hour emergency coverage. You can call them at 455-6385. They are located at 750 East Broad Street, Hazleton, PA.
Arrange a time to meet again to solidify the student’s resolve to obtain appropriate help.
When in doubt about the advisability of an intervention, call Counseling at 450-3160 or 450-3027. After hours and on weekends, contact Northeast Counseling Services 455-6385.