Faculty or Staff Concerned about a Student

The undergraduate and graduate school experience at NIU can have many positive and rewarding benefits for students. However, there are times when academic, financial and/or emotional concerns can also impact students in more significant ways. Numerous factors and situations can contribute to a student's personal worries, and this can include mental health concerns. Due to your position, status and/or visibility on campus, students who are experiencing emotional distress may turn to you for help. Or, because of your role, you may find yourself working with a student who is demonstrating behavior that causes you to be concerned about their emotional well-being, personal safety and/or the safety of others.

The guidelines below will help you to recognize, intervene and refer at-risk students to Counseling and Consultation Services (CCS) so that they can get the help they need.

Recognizing Students with Emotional and/or Behavioral Concerns

At one time or another, everyone feels stressed, depressed or anxious. However, some behaviors can suggest that a student is dealing with more substantial concerns that are having a significant impact on their lives. Provided below are behaviors and other examples that can indicate three different levels of concerns (adapted from information originally provided by the Counseling and Mental Health Center at the University of Texas, Austin).

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 poor performance.
  • Excessive absences, especially if the student previously demonstrated consistent class and/or work attendance.
  • Unusual or markedly changed pattern of interaction (e.g., avoiding participation, becoming excessively anxious when called upon, dominating discussion or making questionable comments, etc.)
  • Withdrawing or isolating from others and/or lethargic behavior.
  • Excessive physical activity/motor movements and very rapid speech.
  • Swollen, red eyes.
  • Marked change in personal dress and hygiene.
  • Falling asleep in class or at work.

Level 2

These behaviors may indicate more significant emotional distress, and may also include a reluctance or inability to acknowledge a need for help:

  • Repeated requests for special consideration such as deadline extensions, especially if the student continues to reference personal or emotional concerns when making the requests.
  • New or consistent behavior which pushes the limits of decorum and appropriateness, which can also interfere with the effective management of your class or work setting.
  • Unusual or exaggerated behaviors, statements and/or emotional responses that are not appropriate to the situation.
  • Comments about feelings of hopelessness and/or worthlessness, comments about not wanting to deal with their concerns anymore but denying specific suicidal thoughts.

Level 3

These behaviors usually indicate that a student is in distress and needs immediate help and/or intervention:

  • Highly disruptive behavior (e.g., hostile, aggressive, violent, etc.)
  • Inability to communicate clearly (e.g., garbled, slurred speech, unconnected or disjointed thoughts).
  • Loss of contact with reality (e.g., seeing/hearing things that aren't present, beliefs or actions greatly at odds with reality or probability).
  • Overtly suicidal thoughts and/or plans (student is referring to suicide as a current option).
  • Homicidal threats and/or comments about specific plans to harm others.

Contact Us

Counseling and Consultation Services
Campus Life Building, room 200
815-753-1206
Monday-Friday
8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

Initial Consultation Hours

Monday-Friday
Noon - 4 p.m.

Worried about yourself or someone else?

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