Students in Distress

Students often experience stress during their academic careers. While most students cope successfully, many find that the various challenges are difficult to manage.

Our staff at Student Counseling Services (SCS) provides psychological support to all currently enrolled students. Our goal is to help students grow and realize their academic and life goals. As faculty, staff and fellow students, you may encounter a student in distress. Often they have not sought any psychological support or intervention. Your role is crucial in identifying and referring students who are in distress.

Signs of Students in Distress:

  • References to suicide (written or verbal).
  • Noted isolation from friends, classmates or other support persons.
  • Marked change in behavior.
  • Listlessness, lack of energy.
  • Impaired speech or garbled, disjointed thoughts.
  • High levels of irritability, unruly or abusive behavior.
  • Students who appear overly nervous, tense or tearful.
  • Anxiety, stress, depression.
  • Marked inability to make decisions.
  • Drug and alcohol abuse.
  • Normal emotions displayed to an extreme degree or for a prolonged period.
  • Threat to others.
  • Marked changes in personal hygiene.
  • Dramatic weight loss or change.

As a faculty or staff member, you may at some point become concerned about a student’s behavior. It is not always easy to discern the difference between inappropriate behavior and behavior that could signal a more significant problem. A student who exhibits any of the following behaviors may warrant further attention:

  • Suddenly stops attending class.
  • Academic performance drops off considerably.
  • Demonstrates a loss of interest in normal activities or avoid friends.
  • Changes in appearance, e.g., a sudden, drastic weight loss or weight gain, blood shot eyes or disheveled grooming.
  • Demonstrates alarming changes in personality, e.g., suddenly interrupting others in class or acting out in an inappropriate manner or acting overly silly or crying in class.
  • Appears angry and aggressive or the opposite, suddenly becomes sullen and withdrawn.
  • Appears or reports feeling increasingly sad or tired.
  • Talks about a significant loss (a death, divorce or end of a relationship).
  • Talks about being in a relationship that appears to be abusive without realizing that such a relationship may not be normal or healthy.
  • Speaks or acts in an odd manner.
  • Communicates that life is not worth living, either written or verbal, and that he or she has considered suicide.
  • Indicates verbally or in writing that he or she wants to harm someone.

These behaviors can occur in class, at a campus event, in an advising session or anywhere on campus.

How Do I Approach the Student in Distress?

  • Request to speak with the student in private.
  • Express your concern for the student in a direct, non-judgmental and straightforward manner. Openly acknowledge the specific behaviors that you have observed that are of concern to you.
  • Listen carefully and be empathic.
  • Avoid criticizing or sounding judgmental.
  • Try not to make agreements with the student that isolate you in dealing with the problem.
  • Consider SCS as a resource and discuss a referral with the student.  Our services are confidential and free of charge for students.
  • If the student refuses to make an appointment and you are concerned, contact SCS to discuss your concern.

How to Refer Students to Student Counseling Services

  • Encourage the student to call the SCS at 540-831-5226 and schedule an appointment with one of our counselors. Students may also stop in the lower level of Tyler Hall to schedule an appointment.
  • Ideally, the student will make the appointment on his/her own. However, if you wish to be certain that the student makes an appointment, call the secretary at the SCS while the student is in your office and offer the phone to the student to schedule the appointment or you can walk over with the student to set up an appointment.
  • If you are concerned about a student but are uncertain about the appropriateness of a referral, feel free to call the SCS and speak with one of our staff.
  • In an emergency, call 540-831-5226 and let the secretary know that you need assistance with an urgent situation.  If the emergency occurs after 5 p.m. or over the weekend, contact ACCESS/RAFT at 540-961-8400, CONNECT at 800-284-8898 or 911 for your local emergency response system.
  • For mental health emergencies that occur at Radford University sites in Roanoke, contact CONNECT at 1-800-284-8898 or the Blue Ridge Community Services hotline at 540-981-9351.
  • For mental health emergencies that occur at Radford University sites in Abingdon, contact Highlands Community Services Board at 276-628-9504 or 276-676-6277 after 5 p.m.