Signs of distress

There are physical, behavioural, emotional and academic signs that indicate a student is experiencing difficulty. A student may exhibit a few or many of these signs. Some of these signs may indicate a student’s safety could possibly be at immediate risk and require action.

The following is a list of potential signs as indicated on the More Feet on the Ground website.

  • Deterioration in physical appearance or personal hygiene.
  • Excessive fatigue, exhaustion; falling asleep in class repeatedly.
  • Visible changes in weight; statements about changes in appetite or sleep.
  • Noticeable cuts, bruises or burns.
  • Frequent or chronic illness.
  • Disorganized speech, rapid or slurred speech, confusion.
  • Unusual inability to make eye contact.
  • Arrival to class bleary-eyed or smelling of alcohol.
  • Direct statements indicating distress, family problems or loss.
  • Difficulty controlling emotions.
  • Angry or hostile outbursts; yelling or aggressive comments.
  • More withdrawn or animated than usual.
  • Expressions of hopelessness or worthlessness; crying or tearfulness.
  • Expressions of severe anxiety or irritability.
  • Excessively demanding or dependent behaviour.
  • Lack of response to outreach from course staff.
  • Shakiness, tremors, fidgeting or pacing.
  • Repeated absences.
  • Missed assignments, exams or appointments.
  • Deterioration in quality or quantity of work.
  • Extreme disorganization or erratic performance.
  • Written or artistic expression of unusual violence, morbidity, social isolation, despair or confusion; essays or papers that focus on suicide or death.
  • Continual seeking of special provisions (extensions on papers, make-up exams).
  • Written or oral statements that mention despair, suicide or death.
  • Severe hopelessness, helplessness, depression, social isolation and withdrawal.
  • Statements to the effect the student is “going away for a long time.”
  • Written or oral expressions of a desire to injure or kill someone else.

If a student is exhibiting any of these signs, she/he may pose an immediate danger to her/himself. In this situation, contact professional resources on your campus (such as counselling, health or emergency services) and ask for their assistance.

  • The student is physically or verbally aggressive toward her/himself, others, animals or property.
  • The student is unresponsive to the external environmental; she/he is:Incoherent or passed out.
  • Demonstrating a severe disturbance of cognitive, behavioural or emotional functioning.
  • Displaying disruptive behaviour that appears to be out of control.
  • The situation feels threatening or dangerous to you.

In these or similar situations, call Campus Security (x3200) or your local police (911) and ask for immediate assistance.

  • Expressions of concern about a student by her/his peers, teaching assistant or other colleagues.
  • A hunch or gut-level reaction something is wrong.

If a student is exhibiting any of these signs, she/he may pose an immediate danger to her/himself. In these cases, you should contact professional resources on your campus (such as counselling, health or emergency services) and ask for assistance.

In these or similar situations, call Campus Security x3200 or 911 and ask for immediate assistance.