Identifying Students in Distress

Faculty and staff are often in a position to identify students who are "at risk." Recognizing the signs of emotional distress and responding with interest and concern in a timely manner may be a critical factor in helping students resolve problems that are interfering with academic achievement.

The following guidelines, which are also available in more detail for download, outline when professional counselling might be beneficial to a student and how to make a referral to on-campus counselling resources. Confidentiality and information about emergency services and consultation are also described.

We appreciate the concern faculty and staff have for the well-being of students and recognize the central role that faculty and staff play in linking students to campus resources.

The mental health professionals at the Student Counselling Centre are available to faculty and staff for consultation regarding these issues. Feel free to call us if you would like to discuss these matters further.

Listed below are some of the more common signs that someone is in distress. This list is intended to provide only basic information.

1. Problems with Academic Performance

  • Significant changes in academic performance
  • Excessive procrastination
  • Increased class absences or tardiness
  • Listlessness, falling asleep in class
  • Repeated requests for special consideration
  • Academic probation

2. Unusual Behaviour

  • Unexplained crying, laughing to self, rapid speech, suspiciousness
  • High levels of irritability including angry outbursts
  • Significant weight gain or weight loss
  • Complaints about physical symptoms including nausea, headaches
  • Problems with sleeping or eating
  • Marked changes in hygiene or dress
  • Aggressive or threatening behaviour
  • Disruptive classroom behaviour
  • Impaired speech or disjointed, confused thoughts

Any threat should be taken seriously. Contact Campus Community Police (1234) for advice on what to do. Please also speak to your department head or manager.
Physical violence and specific threats must be reported immediately to Campus Community Police.

3. References to Suicide or Homicide

  • Direct or indirect references to either suicide or intention to harm or kill another person
  • Statements of helplessness or hopelessness
  • Statements that the world would be better off without them
  • Indications of prolonged unhappiness

Regardless of the circumstances or context, any reference to committing suicide should be taken seriously and a mental health professional should be contacted. Contact Student Counselling Centre (4616) or Student Health Services (7002).

In the event of an actual suicide attempt, immediately call the emergency number for Campus Community Police (911) to request assistance.

4. Other Common Stressors

  • Isolated from family and friends
  • Issues with roommates
  • Identity confusion
  • Academic pressure or failure
  • Outside work or family pressures
  • Financial difficulties
  • Serious illness
  • Excessive use of drugs or alcohol