Identifying Student Distress

Tips for Referring and Signs of a Student in Distress 

Students often experience stress during their academic careers. While most students cope successfully, many find that the various challenges are difficult to manage. The staff at Counseling Center provides psychological support to all currently enrolled students. Our goal is to help students grow and realize their academic and life goals. As faculty, staff and fellow students, you may encounter a student in distress. Often they have not sought any psychological support or intervention. Your role is crucial in identifying and referring students who are in distress. 

Some signs of students in distress:

  • References to suicide (written or verbal)
  • Noted isolation from friends, classmates or other support persons
  • Marked change in behavior
  • Listlessness, lack of energy
  • Impaired speech or garbled, disjointed thoughts
  • High levels of irritability, unruly or abusive behavior
  • Students who appear overly nervous, tense or tearful
  • Anxiety, stress, depression
  • Marked inability to make decisions
  • Drug and alcohol abuse
  • Normal emotions displayed to an extreme degree or for a prolonged period
  • Threat to others
  • Marked changes in personal hygiene
  • Dramatic weight loss or change

How do I approach the student in distress?

  • Request to speak with the student in private.
  • Express your concern for the student in a direct, non-judgmental and straightforward manner. Openly acknowledge the specific behaviors that you have observed that are of concern to you.
  • Listen carefully and be empathic.
  • Avoid criticizing or sounding judgmental.
  • Try not to make agreements with the student that isolate you in dealing with the problem.
  • Consider the Counseling Center as a resource and discuss a referral with the student.  Our services are confidential and free of charge for students.
  • If the student refuses to make an appointment and you are concerned, contact the Counseling Center to discuss your concern.

How to refer students to the Counseling Center

· Encourage the student to call the Counseling Center at 336.750.3270 and schedule an
  appointment with one of our counselors. Students may also stop in the lower level of A.H. Ray
  Student Health Center to schedule an appointment.  

· Ideally, the student will make the appointment on his/her own. However, if you wish to be   
  certain that the student makes an appointment, call the Counseling Center while the student
  is in your office and offer the phone to the student to schedule the appointment or you can
  walk over with the student to set up an appointment.

· If you are concerned about a student but are uncertain about the appropriateness of a referral,
  feel free to call the Counseling Center and speak with one of our staff.

· In an emergency, call Campus Police at 336.750.2900 or 911 for your local emergency
  response system.

To notify the Counseling Center of a student in distress please complete the Behavioral Referral Form.

Winston-Salem State University

601 S. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive

Winston-Salem, NC 27110

Phone: (336) 750-2000

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