What Should I Be Concerned About?

As a staff, faculty or peer, you may notice a student exhibiting one or more of the academic, physical, or emotional signs of stress. Or you may have a “gut feeling” that something is wrong. If the latter is the case, don’t dismiss your feelings or feel that you need to wait for tangible proof that a problem exists. A simple check-in with the student may help you get a better sense of his or her situation.
The following behaviors can all be important signs of distress:

Academic Signs

  • Deterioration in quality or quantity of work
  • A negative change in classroom or research performance (e.g., drop in grades)
  • Missed assignments or exams
  • Repeated absences from class
  • Disorganized or erratic performance
  • Decline in interest or enthusiasm in class (e.g. no longer choosing a seat in the front of the room)
  • Student sends frequent, lengthy, “ranting” or threatening correspondence
  • Continual seeking of special provisions (e.g. late papers, postponed exams, & projects)

Note: Academic Integrity Violation: While a student’s distress or mental anguish should not serve as an excuse for an academic integrity violation, the existence of an academic integrity violation may certainly signal a high level of personal distress

Physical Signs

  • Falling asleep in class or other inopportune times
  • A dramatic increase or decrease in energy level
  • Worrisome changes in hygiene or personal appearance
  • Significant changes in weight
  • Frequent state of alcohol intoxication (i.e. bleary-eyed, hung-over, smelling of alcohol)
  • Noticeable cuts, bruises or burns on student

Emotional Signs

  • Inappropriate emotional outbursts (unprovoked anger or hostility, sobbing)
  • Exaggerated personality traits; more withdrawn or more animated than usual
  • Expressions of hopelessness, fear or worthlessness; themes of suicide, death and dying in papers/projects

It’s possible that any one of theses signs, in and of itself, may simply mean that a student is having an “off” day. Consider consulting with a colleague, supervisor, associate dean, or other trusted member of the USF-SM community to share your observations, and discuss options for response. One or a cluster of serious signs (e.g. student writes a paper expressing hopelessness or thoughts of suicide, emotional outbursts, repeated absence, a noticeable cut on the arm) necessitates an intervention.

If you are not sure about completing a SOCAT referral, please contact socat@sar.usf.edu to discuss your concerns.

NOTE: If in a situation of imminent risk to self or others, contact Campus Police immediately at (941)487-4210 or 911

(adapted with permission from Cornell University Gannet Health Services on 2/24/10)