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How Do I Know if My Student is in Distress?

During your student’s time at Drexel, he or she may be challenged by new academic, personal, or social stressors. While most students will be able to manage these challenges, some will find that they are too difficult and overwhelming to handle.

Your role as a parent is also a challenging one. While your student might be away from home, you may still be the first person to notice a change in your child’s behavior, mood, or attitude. He or she may express a variety of emotions, including feeling afraid, socially isolated, vulnerable, depressed, or anxious. Academic performance may decline, and you may notice an increase in disruptive behaviors or alcohol/drug use. In rare cases, your student may even have suicidal thoughts, or make a suicide attempt. If you become aware of these changes, talking with him or her about your concerns can make a difference in saving your student’s academic career, not to mention his or her life. Directing your student to the Counseling Center should be an important part of your discussion.

Please be aware that the staff of the Counseling Center is also available to consult with you about any concerns you have about a student. We can help you to assess the situation, determine when and how to intervene, and direct you to possible resources on- or off-campus. To consult with a counselor, please call us at (215) 895-1415.

Some Signs and Symptoms of a Student in Distress

Each of us will experience some form of problem or concern at various points in our lives. It may be difficult to know what exactly to look for when dealing with your distressed student. These are some of the signs and symptoms that could indicate that a student is experiencing difficulty.

  • Excessive procrastination and poorly prepared work, especially if this is inconsistent with previous work.
  • Infrequent class attendance with little or no work completed.
  • Social withdrawal.
  • Listlessness, lack of energy, or frequent falling asleep in class.
  • Marked changes in mood or personality.
  • Marked changes in personal hygiene.
  • Repeated requests for special consideration.
  • Impaired speech or garbled, disjointed thoughts.
  • Increased aggressiveness.
  • Suicidal thoughts, either directly (referring to suicide as an option), or indirectly (“It doesn’t matter…I won’t be here for the final exam.”).
  • High levels of irritability, unruly, or abrasive behavior.
  • Inability to make decisions despite repeated attempts to clarify and to encourage.
  • Dramatic weight loss or weight gain.
  • Bizarre or strange behavior, speech or mannerisms.
  • Normal emotions that are displayed to an extreme degree or for a prolonged period of time, e.g., fearfulness, tearfulness, nervousness.

Please remember that the presence of one of the above signs does not necessarily indicate that your student is in distress. They may be brief in duration, or low in level of severity. However, if you believe your student is experiencing one or more of these signs over a period of time, or if the symptoms he or she displays are severe, you may wish to speak with your student about seeking professional help. Direct him or her to the Counseling Center to schedule an appointment. And remember that you may also contact us at (215) 895-1415 to consult about the appropriate steps.

Some Warning Signs of Substance Abuse

If you think a student might have a substance abuse problem, intervening can be very important for his or her health. There are some signs and symptoms that may indicate the presence of a problem, or that someone is at risk of having a problem with drugs or alcohol:

  • You have heard reports or seen the student drinking excessively.
  • The student has been involved in disciplinary actions as a result of alcohol or drug intoxication.
  • The student's grades have suffered because of excess substance use.
  • The student has been involved in accidents in which alcohol is involved.
  • The student misses classes or appointments because s/he is hung over.
  • The student is having difficulties in relationships with peers because of his or her excessive use of alcohol or drugs.
  • The student has been involved in sexual activity he or she later regrets.
  • The student has had erratic emotional outbursts.
  • The student has 'black outs'.
  • The student is unable to modify his or her drinking or drug use.
  • The student has experienced weight loss, medical difficulties, or is exhibiting poor hygiene.