Identifying Distressed Students

The college years can be very stressful for many of our students. In the contemporary climate of competition and pressure, some students adequately cope with these stresses, but others find that stress becomes unmanageable and interferes with learning. Managing the stresses of college life can be especially difficult for those students who enter college with pre-existing difficulties. In some cases, distressed students may even disrupt the learning of others.

Below are warning signs for identifying students in distress:

  • Excessive procrastination and very poorly prepared work, especially if inconsistent with previous work.
  • Infrequent class attendance with little or no work completed.
  • Dependency (e.g., the student who hangs around or makes excessive appointments during office hours).
  • Listlessness, lack of energy, or frequently falling asleep in class.
  • Marked changes in personal hygiene.
  • Impaired speech and disjointed thoughts.
  • Students who appear overly nervous, tense or tearful.
  • Troubling content in written work.
  • Repeated requests for special consideration (e.g., deadline extensions).
  • Excessive weight gain or loss.
  • Behavior which regularly interferes with effective class management.
  • Frequent or high levels of irritable, unruly, abrasive, or aggressive behavior.
  • Unable to make decisions despite your repeated efforts to clarify or encourage.
  • Bizarre behavior that is obviously inappropriate for the situation (e.g., talking to something/someone that is not present).
  • Evidence of self injury such as cutting or burning.

Many students in difficulty initially seek assistance from their instructors, but some of the distinctions educators are called upon to make are not easy.  For example, distinguishing between laziness/willful procrastination and depression is difficult.  Deliberate self injury by cutting or burning, may or may not be suicidal in intent. Feel free to contact the Director of the Engle Center, to discuss any concerns or questions you might have have regarding your students.