How to Help a Distressed Student


Your willingness to respond to students in distress will be influenced by your personal style and your philosophy about the limits of a professor’s or staff member’s responsibility for helping students grow emotionally as well as intellectually. Obviously, a student’s openness to such assistance, as well as the location of the contact, and the depth of your relationship will impact the types of interactions you can have with a student. This information has been prepared to assist faculty and staff in the early identification and referral of students in distress.

Faculty is often on the front lines for students in distress. Students will often approach a faculty member about their problems before talking to a friend or family member. Some problems common to college students are:

  • Family problems
  • Problems with a romantic partner or spouse
  • Academic difficulties
  • Alcohol or drug problems
  • Stress
  • Depression

Signs of students having emotional problems

The key to recognizing distress is to look for changes in:

  • behavior
  • class attendance
  • quality of work
  • appearance

Three basic things to remember

  • Your expression of concern may provide the motivation students need to seek help.
  • You are not responsible for students’ well-being, nor are you responsible for whether a student seeks help.
  • Student Counseling Services is available to consult with you about any student you might be concerned about.