People dealing with personal concerns or problems tend to show signs that they are struggling in some way. The following indicators may be useful in assessing whether or not a referral should be made:
Changes in mood, appearance or behavior
Some students do not directly tell you that there is a problem, but their appearance and behavior can be telling indicators. Deterioration of hygiene or appearance and dress may be visible cues of a problem. A distinct decline in academic performance, poor attendance, an uncharacteristic need for additional attention or repeated requests for extensions are examples of behavioral changes you might observe. Outbursts of anger, crying, extreme levels of activity or conversations that do not make sense could indicate psychological difficulties. Threats to classmates and angry, harassing behaviors may require intervention on several levels. These behaviors should not be tolerated and action needs to be taken to stop them. In addition, underlying psychological problems may need to be addressed as well.
Traumatic changes in personal relationships
Students are often stressed when they experience a traumatic change in their personal lives. The death of a family member or close friend, difficulties in important relationships, a divorce or break-up or changes in family responsibilities might increase stress and overwhelm the individual's usual capacity to cope. If you are aware of such a problem, you might wish to initiate a conversation.
Drug and alcohol abuse
Coming to class or a meeting while intoxicated or high is a sign of serious abuse of drugs or alcohol. Individuals often use drugs and alcohol to cope with life stresses and psychological difficulties. Unfortunately, the substance abuse itself frequently causes a further decline in social, academic, and work functioning. If you see signs of intoxication, do not underestimate their significance. Be aware that abuse of and addiction to alcohol, marijuana, opiates (such as heroin), crack cocaine, and hallucinogenics are problems in this student population.
Students whose academic performance declines to a noticeable degree may be feeling overwhelmed in other areas of their lives. Some students might exhibit difficulties with concentration in class or performance on exams.
Some students find the demands of college-level academic work to be greater than they anticipated. While it is expected that students will go through an adjustment period, those who demonstrate a consistent discrepancy between their ability and performance may need further assistance. Poor study habits, test anxiety, or an undiagnosed learning disability may be affecting performance. The Academic Skills Assessment Program (ASAP) located in SCS, is equipped to help students with these issues.
References to suicide
If a student talks or writes about suicide, this should be taken seriously. Thoughts of suicide are not necessarily dangerous, but they may indicate that the student is feeling overwhelmed or depressed. To assume that talk of suicide is intended solely to get attention is risky and can be a regrettable mistake. If you become aware of a student who is thinking about suicide, please consider a referral to SCS. You can call us for a consultation if you are unsure of how to intervene or if the student is reluctant to take your referral.
When a student indicates that he or she is considering leaving school or transferring, a referral to SCS may be appropriate. Often a complex number of issues are at play when a student decides to leave an institution. A change of place may not be all that is at issue.