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University Counseling Center

Signs of Distress

At one time or another, everyone feels depressed or upset. It is important to remember that just because a student appears to be experiencing one of the signs below it does not necessarily mean that he or she is in significant distress. However, if a student’s distress appears to be severe, or you notice one or more of these signs over a prolonged period of time, then it may be necessary to intervene. You can call the Counseling Center if you have doubts or concerns about the seriousness of your student’s problems.

Marked Changes in Academic Performance or Behavior

  • Poor performance and preparation.
  • Excessive absences or tardiness.
  • Unusual or changed pattern of interaction.
  • Disruptive behavior.

References to Suicide, Homicide or Death

  • Feelings of helplessness or hopelessness.
  • Talk of death/dying or suicide, either directly or indirectly (e.g., “It doesn’t matter, I won’t be around for the final exam.”)
  • Isolation from friends and/or family.
  • Homicidal or suicidal threats, which may occur in verbal or written statements.

Unusual Behavior or Appearance

  • Depressed or lethargic mood.
  • Hyperactivity or very rapid speech.
  • Swollen or red eyes.
  • Significant change in personal hygiene or dress.
  • Dramatic weight loss or gain.
  • Strange or bizarre behavior indicating loss of contact w/ reality.
  • Sleeping more than usual or less than usual.
  • Anxiety, nervousness, panic attacks.
  • Problems with roommates, friends, family.
  • Aggressiveness, acting out, emotional outbursts.