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


Sudden decline in quality of work and grades

Frequently missed classes and assignments

Disturbing content in writing or presentations

Classroom disruptions

Consistently seeking personal rather than professional advice

Multiple requests for extensions or special considerations (a change from prior functioning)

Doesn't respond to repeated requests for contact or meetings

Academic assignments dominated by themes of extreme hopelessness, helplessness, isolation, rage, despair, violence or self-harm


Marked changes in physical appearance like poor grooming or hygiene or sudden changes in weight

Strange or bizarre behavior indicating loss of contact with reality

Visibly intoxicated or smelling of alcohol or marijuana

Rapid speech or manic behavior

Depressed or lethargic mood or functioning 

Observable signs of injury like facial bruising or cuts


Self-disclosure of personal distress like family problems, financial difficulties, assault, discrimination or legal difficulties

Unusual or disproportionate emotional response to events

Excessive tearfulness, panic reactions

Verbal abuse like taunting, badgering or intimidation

Expression of concern about the student by peers

Safety Risk

Verbal, written or implied references to suicide, homicide, assault or self-harm behavior

Unprovoked anger or hostility

Physical violence like shoving, grabbing, assaulting or use of a weapon

Stalking or harassing 

Communicating threats or disturbing comments in person or via email, text or phone call