Students in Distress

Classifying Student Behavior

In your classes you may see students at many different levels of distress, it is important to recognize this level of distress to assess the appropriate level of concern you should have as a faculty member. Often, distress can be broken down into three levels: mild, moderate, and severe distress. There are a number of behaviors that you may see in your students that indicate one of these levels. Below are examples of each:[1]

[1] Adapted from “Students of Concern: A Guide for Faculty and Staff” Saint Xavier University

Mild-Moderate Distress

Academic Indicators
Changes in behavior, this may include repeated absence from class or missing assignments
Change in quality of work
A student may ask for special provisions or extensions repeatedly
Patterns of perfectionism
Out of the ordinary response to grades or evaluations
Behavioral/Emotional Indicators
Statements that demonstrate distress, family problems or loss
Student is more withdrawn than usual
Student expresses that they feel hopeless or worthless, crying
Student expresses severe anxiety or irritability
Demanding or dependent behavior on faculty member
Lack of response to outreach
Shakiness, tremors, fidgeting or pacing
Physical Indicators
Change in physical appearance or hygiene
Student appears to be excessively fatigued, may fall asleep in class repeatedly
Changes in weight, or statements about change in appetite or sleep
Noticeable cuts, bruises or burns
Frequent or chronic illness
Inability to make eye contact that is out of the ordinary for the student

Severe Distress

Academic Indicators
Extreme disorganization or erratic performance in class
Work may focus on unusual violence, morbidity, social isolation, despair, or confusion, as well as suicide or death
Behavioral/Emotional Indicators
Angry or hostile outbursts, including yelling or aggressive comments
Talking about hurting him/herself
Disorganized speech, rapid or slurred speech, confusion
If you feel that a student is exhibiting one of the indicators of severe distress, it is important to call UPD at 202-994-6111 as soon as possible. You may also file a CARE report about this student to insure they receive support and outreach, the CARE Network does not function as an emergency response system.