Counselling Services Students in Distress; Faculty’s Role

Students in Distress; Faculty’s Role


Recognizing Students in Distress
At one time or another, everyone experiences unhappiness or depression. The “blues” are common and usually don’t last long, but certain patterns of behaviour over a period of time can indicate something is wrong and professional help may be needed. Behaviours that indicate emotional distress aren’t always disruptive to the classroom. However, faculty members are in a unique position to observe the patterns a student’s actions suggest. Some behaviours that may not be disruptive, but may indicate a need for help, are:

  • A change from consistently good grades to unaccountably poor performance, or serious problems with grades
  • Excessive absences; this is especially true if the student has previously demonstrated good attendance
  • Markedly changed or unusual patterns of interaction with classmates or instructor, such as completely dominating a discussion, or avoiding any discussion whatsoever
  • Other signs of emotional distress may include depressed or lethargic behaviour patterns, excessive activity or talking (rapid, pressured speech), red or swollen eyes, marked change in dress or personal hygiene, sweating when the room isn’t hot, or falling asleep in class

Sometimes students, even those in significant distress, are reluctant or unable to acknowledge a need for help. Behaviours that may indicate severe distress include:

  • Repeated requests for special consideration such as deadline extensions, especially if the student seems uncomfortable or highly emotional disclosing the reasons for the request
  • Behaviour, new or regularly occurring, that is vastly out of place and interferes with the effective management of the classroom
  • Unusual or exaggerated emotional response that is inappropriate to the situation, such as needing to leave the room upon presentation of certain material