Recognizing and Supporting a Student in Distress
UCF cares about the wellbeing of all students. At any point during a student’s career, they may experience financial, academic, mental, physical, and/or relational stressors, just to name a few. If an individual experiences sexual or interpersonal violence, this can create its own stressors, as well as exacerbate existing stressors. Therefore, it is important to recognize the signs that someone may need care. As a community of Knights, it is up to each of us to create a community of care, watch out for our fellow Knights, and provide support when needed and appropriate.
If you are not sure how best to support a student, you can always contact Student Care Services at 407-823-5607 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Indicators of Student Distress
The following signs of distress should raise concerns. These may be behaviors that you observe or that are reported to you by coworkers, other students, or faculty, etc. If you see any of these signs within a student please submit a Student of Concern Form and provide some of the signs you’ve witnessed like the ones below:
- Change in personal hygiene
- Dramatic weight gain or loss
- Unruly behavior
- Impaired speech
- Disjointed thoughts
- Intense emotion
- Inappropriate responses
- Difficulty concentrating
- Physically harming self
- Destruction of property
- Anxiety and panic
- Frequently falling asleep in class
- Inability to communicate clearly
- Loss of contact with reality
- Written references to death, dying, or suicide
- Disconnection for classmates
- Hyperactivity or rapid speech
- Preoccupation with gaming, social media or online personas
- Career and course indecision
- Excessive procrastination
- Uncharacteristically poor preparation / performance
- Many requests for extensions / special considerations
- Disruptive classroom behavior
- Excessive absence / tardiness
- Avoiding or dominating discussions
- References to suicide or harm to others in verbal statements or writing
- Always asking for help with personal problems
- Dependency on you or others
- Withdrawing from social situations
- Disruptive behavior
- Inability to get along with others
- Complaints from others
Safety Risk Indicators
If a student expresses suicidal or homicidal thoughts and you are concerned they may be in immediate danger, please call 911!
- Any written or verbal statement with a suicidal tone or sense of finality
- Writing that focuses on despair, suicide, violent behavior or death
- Statements about “going away for a long time”
- Giving away valuable possessions
- Self-injury or self-destructive behavior, including abusing drugs or alcohol
Supporting a Student in Distress
When a student shares a concern with you, appears to be in distress, or others have shared concerns, there are a few steps you can take to get the student connected to support.
- Visit UCF CARES to learn more about supports and resources available to UCF students.
- File a Student of Concern report.
- Review Tips for Supporting and Encouraging Students from Student Care Services.
- Refer to the Title IX What to Do When a Student Discloses handout for guidance.
- Know your limits. When aiding a student you are not expected to provide personal counseling. Rather, you play an important role in encouraging students to use campus resources, including facilitating a referral to Counseling and Psychological Services, Student Health Services, Student Accessibility Services, Victim Services, and/or other valuable campus resources.
- If it is an emergency or there is a safety concern, call 911.
- Afterward, make sure you are taking care of yourself, too. Supporting a student in distress can be a distressing experience for faculty and staff. UCF offers a free, confidential Employee Assistance Program for employees who have experienced major life situations or need additional support.