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Indicators of Distress: What to Look For

Academic Indicators:

  • Sudden decline in quality of work/grades
  • Repeated absences
  • Disorganized performance
  • Multiple requests for extensions
  • Overly demanding of faculty/staff time and attention
  • Bizarre content in writing/presentations
  • Increased need for personal (rather than academic) counseling

Physical Indicators:

  • Marked changes in physical appearance (deterioration in grooming or hygiene, significant weight gain/loss)
  • Excessive fatigue or sleep disturbance
  • Intoxication, hangovers, smelling of alcohol
  • Disoriented or "out of it"
  • Garbled, tangential, disconnected, or slurred speech

Psychological Indicators:

  • Self-disclosure of personal distress, including family problems, financial difficulties, suicidal thoughts, grief
  • Unusual/disproportional emotional response to events
  • Excessive tearfulness
  • Panic reactions
  • Irritability or unusual apathy
  • Verbal abuse (e.g. taunting, badgering, intimidation)

Safety Risk Indicators:

  • Unprovoked anger or hostility
  • Physical violence (shoving, grabbing, assault, use of weapon)
  • Implying or making a direct threat to harm self or others
  • Academic assignments dominated by themes of extreme hopelessness, rage, worthlessness, isolation, despair, acting out, suicidal ideation, violent behaviors, or other "cries for help"
  • Stalking or harassing
  • Communicating threats via email, texting, phone calls
*Material adapted from the Red Folder Initiative of University of California