Parents, faculty, staff, and friends often have the most direct contact with students
and thus may be the first to notice any changes. In order to facilitate early identification
of difficulties, listed below are some possible warning signs which may suggest that
a student is in need of assistance.
- a change in appearance (e.g., poor hygiene, weight gain/loss)
- a drop in GPA or academic performance from the previous semester, especially for students
who generally perform above average
- increased irritability or agitation
- consistently inappropriate, illogical, or unrelated questions
- distracted or preoccupied thought processes
- withdrawal from social interactions with peers, family, and significant others, frequent
class absences, and expressions of loneliness
- fearful responses, such as avoidance or apprehension about being alone
- occurrence of a recent loss or other crisis (e.g., relationship breakup, death of
a friend or family member, academic failure, physical illness, rape/sexual assault)
- expressions of hopelessness (statements such as "There's no use trying" or "What's
- indirect statements or written essays about death or suicide ("I want to disappear,"
"There's no way out" or "I can't go on") as well as more direct suicidal statements
("I've had thoughts about hurting myself")
Penn State's Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) web site offers an excellent
online workshop for recognizing students in distress; the workshop includes video
role plays of student-professor interactions to assist you with this process. To learn
more about the workshop, visit the CAPS.
For assistance with making referrals call the Counseling Center at 716-673-3424 or
go to the how to refer students page.
Thank you for working with us to support the success, growth, and development of our