Office of Student Life

Counseling and Consultation Service

Assisting Distressed Students

Many of us experience hard days and feel sad, depressed or upset at some point in our lives. However, significant distress experienced over a period of time may suggest a more serious problem. It is important to know what to look for and how to reach out for consultation if you become concerned about a student.

Possible Signs of Distress

Academic Problems

  • Excessive procrastination
  • Change in performance
  • Repeated requests for special consideration or accommodations
  • Excessive absence or tardiness
  • Excessively anxious when called upon in class
  • Unusual or change interaction patterns
  • Inability to stay awake in class
  • Disruptive or threatening behavior
  • Written work with reference to self-harm or content that appears bizarre

Behavioral Problems

  • Change in appearance and hygiene
  • Dramatic weight gain or loss
  • Swollen or red eyes
  • Uncharacteristic changes in mood
  • Impaired speech
  • Inappropriate or exaggerated emotional reactions
  • Smell of alcohol/marijuana, or evidence of excessive alcohol/drug use
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Disrupted sleep or appetite

Dealing with Disruptive and Disturbed Students

Disruptive behavior is behavior that interferes with students, faculty or staff and their access to an appropriate educational or work environment is considered disruptive. Disruptive behavior should not be ignored. Remain calm. Remind yourself that it is not about you; it is about the situation. Tell the individual that such behavior is inappropriate and there are consequences for failing to improve the disruptive behavior. Many disruptive situations involve anger. Recognize that the period of peak anger usually lasts 20-30 seconds. Although this may seem like an eternity in the throes of the situation, often it is best to “wait it out” before progressing.

Download a Guide to Dealing with Disruptive or Distressed Students (PDF)

Request a program for your department 

  1. Dealing with Distressed and Disturbed Individuals: Presentation and discussion of behavioral presentations, recommended actions, safety precautions, legal and student judicial code options and effective referral. Two-hour version presented by experts from Ohio State Public Safety, Student Conduct and Counseling and Consultation Service. For more information, please contact Dr. Micky M. Sharma.
  2. REACH: A suicide prevention training program offered to students, faculty and staff (approximately 60-90 minutes). Contact Wendy Winger, SAMHSA Grant Program Coordinator at 614-688-5829.  

If you have concerns for a student, call Counseling and Consulation Service at 614-292-5766 to consult with a clinican or to discuss how to make a referral. When our representative answers, say that you are a faculty or staff member and would like a call back from a clinician. As always, if you are aware of immediate risk of harm to a student or anyone else, call 911 or seek immediate assistance.