Services & Resources > CARE Team > Understanding People in Distress

Understanding People in Distress

Level      ​

Description      ​

    Characteristics                                           ​

A student in DISTRESS​

This is a student who shows signs of being in personal distress, of having significant personal problems that are revealing themselves in behaviors that cause those around them, especially those who care about them, to be concerned for them (and which left unattended may become more serious or critical problems).

Observed by a Student

·          More than other students

o    Sadder:  most of time, cries easily, no appetite or energy, feels hopeless, etc.

o    More Anxious:  worries all the time, restless, easily distracted, circular thinking, etc.

o    More Withdrawn: quite getting together, not going out, not returning phone calls, etc.

o    More Angry:  always upset, easily irritated, wants to argue, etc.

o    Not a cultural or family difference

·          Strong change in behavior, from how you know them to be

o    Much more of one of the above than they used to be

o    Dramatic increase in use of alcohol/drugs

o    Not a “bad day”, more a new way of being for them

·          Major Traumatic Event

o    One of the above caused by major bad news or a major loss

o    Seems to be more than typical grief or shock – lasts longer, behavior stranger

Observed by Faculty

·          The characteristics in "observed by a Student"

o    Odd, different behavior from other students, notable in class or before/after class

o    Sudden change in how they interact in class or with you before/after class

o    Notice other students treating them as different, perhaps overhear comments

·          Change in academic performance in class, how they focus/analyze/questions

·          Dramatic drop in grades, or in attendance

Observed by Staff

·          The characteristics in "observed by a Student"

·          If interact briefly, behavior strange/different enough to be noticeable even in a brief encounter

If in a program, know them well enough to see either differences form other students or from how you have known them to be​

A student causing a


This is a student whose personal distress has grown to the point that they are acting out those problems in ways that disrupt activities and social interactions around them, creating a concern for both them and those in their proximity​

Observed by a Student

·          Disrupts discussions in Study Center, Lion’s Den, or any other student area – consistently, rudely, without being invited, etc.

·          Appears eager to start verbal fights or talks about physical fights, very aggressive to the point of making you uncomfortable

·          Highly manipulative or exaggerated emotional responses

·          Disruptive or aggressive on campus in any manner that makes you feel unsafe/very uncomfortable, but not really scared yet

Observed by Faculty

·          Someone disruptive enough that regular classroom techniques do not seem enough to manage the situation

·          Someone who seems to be disturbed enough themselves (angry, hurt, anxious, etc.) they cannot seem to help or control their disruptive behavior (or no longer care that they are disruptive)

Observed by Staff

·          So disruptive that they appear to bother other students or to keep staff from effectively meeting the needs of other students

Appear to bring so much emotion to  the table that what you can provide or change is not sufficient to meet what is bothering them, either their emotional level never goes down or it does temporarily but is back the next time they come to you​

A student posing a DANGER​

This is a student whose personal distress is beyond the point of disruption, who is now acting out (or potentially acting out) in a manner which may cause emotional and/or physical harm to themselves and/or to others.   May present as loud, manic, and angry or may be very quiet and withdrawn (can be great danger)​

Observed by Student/Faculty/Staff

·          They talk about harming themselves, about how and when they might do it

·          They are harming themselves by extreme cutting, eating disorder, alcohol/drug use, high –risk behaviors

·          They talk about harming others, about how and when they might do it

·          They threaten you or someone else, verbally or physically

·          You find out that they have a weapon with them, or often do

·          Appear extremely irrational, extreme emotional outbursts, loss of temper to point of  loss of control, manic behavior, extremely abusive relationship, etc.

·          Irrational or disconnected speech

·          Are highly suspicious of others or have strong feelings of persecution