Helping Distressed Students

Helping Distressed Students
Michael B. Brown, Associate Dean, Harriot College of Arts and Sciences
Travis Lewis, Director of Student Safety and Services, Dean of Students Office
Distressed Behavior
Behavior resulting from psychological problems, stress, or crises that interfere with student’s ability to
Examples of Distressed Behavior
Repeated requests for special consideration, extensions, etc.
Unusual or exaggerated emotional responses
Withdrawal from activities or friends
Significant change in sleep or eating patterns
Declining academic performance
Excessive absences, especially if attendance was previously consistent
Perfectionism, procrastination, or excessive worrying
Markedly changed patterns of interaction (avoiding participation or dominating discussion)
Serious Distressed Behavior
 Depressed mood
 Marked changes in personal hygiene
 Falling asleep in class
 Excessively active and talkative
 Difficulty communicating
 Slurred, disjointed, or incoherent speech
 Loss of contact with reality
 Seeing/hearing things that do not exist
 Persistent peculiar thoughts
 Suicidal thoughts, jokes or intentions
Helping Distressed Students
 Talk to the student in private
 Express your concern in nonjudgmental terms
 “I've noticed you’ve been absent from class lately and I’m concerned”
 Listen in a sensitive, non-threatening way
 Avoid early reassurance or attempt to provide a solution
 Communicate understanding to student by repeating back the gist of what the student has said.
 Avoid judging, evaluating, or criticizing. Respect the student’s value system, even if you disagree
with it.
 Ask for some agreement to refer to another campus resource
When to Make a Referral
The student is in crisis
The behavior is beyond your skill level
The behavior persists
The behavior is getting worse
You feel overwhelmed or unsure of how to proceed
You feel the need to talk with someone about your observations or concerns
How to Make a Referral
Summarize your observations about the student’s behavior
Express your concern about the student’s distress
Assure the student that seeking help does not mean they are “crazy”
Make phone call from your office to help student make an appointment with referral resource
Make sure student in crisis gets help now
Resources for Assistance
 Counseling & Student Development 328-6661
 Student Health Services 328-6841
 Student Rights & Responsibilities 328-6824
 Dean of Students Office 329-9297
 ECU Cares 737-5555
 ECU Police 9-1-1 or 328-6787 (non-emergency)
 Academic resources (Pirate Tutoring Center, advisors, department chairs and associate deans)
ECU Cares
 Reporting system to get assistance for persons with behaviors of concern
 Not a replacement for emergency responders!!
 Operated by Dean of Students Office
 Reports can be anonymous
 ECU Cares phone line: 737-5555
 Web reporting form: