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Students in Distress

How to Identify Students in Distress

UTSA Faculty and Staff can play an important role in helping students obtain mental health services on campus. There are a wide variety of behaviors or situations that may warrant your intervention. The following is a list of some of the more frequently occurring concerns:

Advisement problems

  • Inability to choose courses
  • Unwillingness to take required courses
  • Career indecision
  • Shift from discussion of coursework to personal issues

Academic problems

  • Excessive procrastination
  • Uncharacteristically poor work
  • Inconsistent work
  • Repeated requests for special consideration
  • Excessive absences

Interpersonal interactions

  • Obviously excessive anxiety
  • Uncharacteristically poor work
  • Avoidance of professor or other students
  • Exaggerated emotional responses that regularly interfere with classroom dynamics
  • Regularly depressed or lethargic mood
  • Consistent hyperactivity or rapid speech
  • Overt references to suicidal or homicidal threats

Behavior markers

  • Marked changes in personal hygiene
  • Dramatic weight gain or loss
  • Frequently falling asleep in class
  • Irritability, particularly in conjunction with unruly behavior
  • Impaired speech or garbled, disjointed thoughts
  • Unusually soft or loud voice, or unusually slow or fast speech
  • Tearfulness or intense emotion not appropriate to the situation

How to Assist Students in Distress

If you choose to speak to a student about your concerns, or if a student reaches out to you, be aware that there is no “textbook procedure” for helping another human being. Individuals have varying levels of comfort when dealing with other’s problems. It will be helpful to know your personal limits and to operate within those boundaries. At an appropriate time, and as privately as possible, approach the student in a respectful manner and ask to speak to him or her privately after class. Express your concerns about them in a concrete, non-judgmental manner, “I’ve noticed that you have been absent lately and I am concerned.”

Inform the student that he or she may contact Counseling Services at 458-4140 between the hours of 8am and 5pm, Monday through Friday to speak to a counselor. When the student calls our clinic, a phone triage will be conducted at that point and this procedure will help us to determine the next appropriate step. Our office is in the Rec Wellness Center, RWC1.810 (just past Student Health Services). At the Downtown Campus, we are located in the Buena Vista Building (BV 1.308), which is near the bookstore. The clinic offers services there on Wednesdays and Thursdays during the fall and spring semesters. You may call the clinic with the student in your office or you can offer to walk with the student to the clinic.

One more thing to keep in mind, you can always call the clinic and ask to speak to a Counselor on Duty (COD) prior to speaking with the student. Consulting with one of our clinicians before speaking with the student may provide you with helpful ideas or techniques.

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