Consultation Services

Recognizing Emotionally Troubled Students

At one time or another, everyone feels stressed, depressed, or anxious. However, some behaviors occurring over a period of time can suggest that the problems with which the student is dealing are more than the expected ones. The following are three levels of behaviors indicating this kind of distress (adapted with permission from information provided by the Counseling and Mental Health Center of the University of Texas, Austin, Texas.)

Level 1 - Although not disruptive to others, these behaviors may indicate that help is needed:

  • serious grade problems or a change from consistently good grades to unaccountably poor performance
  • excessive absences, especially if the student previously demonstrated consistent class and/or work attendance
  • unusual or markedly changed pattern of interaction, i.e., totally avoiding participation, becoming excessively anxious when called upon, dominating discussion, etc.
  • other characteristics that may indicate a problem, including depressed mood and lethargic behavior
  • excessive activity and very rapid speech
  • swollen, red eyes
  • marked change in personal dress and hygiene
  • anxious behavior
  • falling asleep in class or at work

Level 2 - These behaviors may indicate significant emotional distress and also a reluctance or inability to acknowledge a need for personal help:

  • repeated requests for special consideration, such as deadline extensions (especially if the student appears uncomfortable or highly emotional disclosing the circumstances prompting the request)
  • new or consistent behavior which pushes the limits of decorum and which interferes with the effective management of your class or work setting
  • an unusual or exaggerated emotional response that is obviously inappropriate to the situation

Level 3 - These behaviors usually show students in obvious crisis who need emergency care:

  • highly disruptive behavior (hostile, aggressive, violent, etc.)
  • inability to communicate clearly (garbled, slurred speech, unconnected or disjointed thoughts)
  • loss of contact with reality (seeing/hearing things that aren’t present, beliefs or actions greatly at odds with reality or probability)
  • overtly suicidal thoughts (referring to suicide as a current option)
  • homicidal threats