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Signs of Distress

For most students, the transition to college involves major life changes and this usually takes time to adjust.  Students are learning to navigate their new environment, including being away from their families for the first time.  While students will face difficulties adjusting at the beginning and throughout their college experience, prolonged periods of distress may be an indicator of more serious concerns.  Below is a list of signs that a student is in distress and could benefit from a referral to the Counseling Center:

  • Wellness Concerns

    • Lack of attention to hygiene or personal appearance
    • Sleeping too much or too little
    • Significant weight loss or weight gain
    • Appearance of depression (e.g., sad expression, apathy, tearfulness, distractibility)
    • Excessive drinking or drug use
    • Unhealthy coping strategies (substances, self-harm, eating, sex, etc.)
    • High irritability, anger, or major mood swings
    • Agitation or aggressiveness
    • Bizarre behavior or speech
    • Behavior that is unusual for that person
    • Talk of suicide, either directly or indirectly (e.g., "I won't be around to take that exam anyway." or "I'm not worried about getting a job, I won't need one.")
    • Recent suicide attempt(s)
    • Recent traumatic experience(s)
  • Social Difficulties

    • Isolating in their room
    • Withdrawing or distancing themselves from others
    • Difficulties making friends
    • Loss of friend group/support group
    • Losses (break up, death of loved one, job, etc.)
    • Experiences of social rejection, abuse, or bullying
    • Experiences of discrimination or “isms” (e.g. racism, sexism, heterosexism, etc.)
    • Acculturation difficulties
    • Extreme dependency on another person (e.g. peer, staff/faculty, parent, etc.)
    • Changes, conflicts, or lack of support in the family system

  • Academic Difficulties

    • Failing multiple classes
    • A marked drop in grades or GPA
    • Noticeable decrease in the usual quality of work or level of participation
    • Reoccurring pattern of missing or late assignments
    • Frequent absences from class
    • Excessive procrastination
    • Difficulties concentrating
    • Disruptive or threatening behavior
    • Morbid, depressing, or concerning themes on written assignments

Connect a Student to Services

If you notice these or other signs of distress, encourage the student to reach out for services.  A referral by faculty or staff is usually more effective if you are able to help connect the student to services, either by calling with them or by accompanying them to the Counseling Center.  The Office of Student Outreach and Support can follow up with students of concern when a student is not immediately open to reaching out for services.

A student can come in for Emergency/Drop in appointments between 9am-12pm and 1pm-4pm, Monday through Friday.  To initiate ongoing care, students can drop in for an initial consultation Monday through Friday between 1pm-4pm.