These are some of the most common signs of distress. Students may also present with signs that are not listed.


  • Sudden decline in quality of work and grades
  • Frequently missed classes and assignments
  • Disturbing content in projects, assignments or written communication (e.g., emails)
  • Disruptive behavior in class or other settings
  • Consistently seeking personal rather than professional advice from faculty or staff
  • Sudden requests for extensions on projects or assignments
  • Doesn't respond to repeated requests for meetings, follow-up or other forms of contact 
  • Assignments are focused around themes of extreme hopelessness, helplessness, isolation, rage, despair, fear, violence, or self-harm


  • Sudden changes in physical appearance like hygiene or noticeable changes to weight
  • Strange or bizarre behavior; losing touch with reality
  • Visibly intoxicated or smelling of alcohol or marijuana; increased substance use/abuse
  • Rapid speech, manic behavior or extreme mood swings
  • Appears to be depressed or lethargic
  • Signs of injury like facial bruising or cuts


  • Disclosing personal distress like family problems, financial difficulties, assault, discrimination or legal difficulties to staff or faculty
  • Unusual or disproportionate emotional response to events
  • Excessive tearfulness, panic attacks
  • Verbal abuse like taunting, badgering or intimidation toward staff, faculty, friends or family members

Safety risk

  • Verbal, written or implied references to suicide, homicide, assault or self-harm
  • Unprovoked anger or hostility
  • Physical violence like shoving, grabbing, assaulting or use of a weapon
  • Engaging in stalking or harassing behaviors
  • Communicating threats or disturbing comments in person or via email, text or phone call

Additional signs

  • Decline in performance, poor grades
  • Increase in spending, excessive spending
  • Other students or friends are expressing concerns
  • Bizarre or out of control behavior
  • Increase in partying, drinking or substance use; substance abuse
  • Difficulty bouncing back from challenges
  • Unusual difficulty readjusting to home life during breaks or summer