Students In Crisis vs. Students Experiencing Distress

Concerned About A Student?

As an administrator, faculty or staff member interacting with students, you play an invaluable role in being able to identify students who are struggling and in helping students obtain the assistance they need. You are in an excellent position to recognize behavioral changes that characterize the emotionally troubled student.

The resources below will help you distinguish between a student in crisis and a student experiencing distress.

A Student in Crisis

If a student is in a mental health crisis, you might see or hear the following:

  • Statements about suicide or death, or attempts at suicide or self-harm
  • Written or verbal threats, or attempted assault or homicide
  • Destruction of property or other criminal acts
  • Extreme anxiety, panic, or uncontrollable crying
  • Inability to communicate (e.g., jumbled, pressured or slurred speech; disjointed thoughts)
  • Loss of contract with reality (e.g., seeing or hearing things that aren’t there, expressing beliefs or behaving in a way that is at odds with reality)
  • Highly disruptive behavior (e.g., hostility, aggression, violence)
How to help when a student is in crisis

If the student may be in immediate danger (e.g., someone is already injured, has overdosed, is threatening to use a weapon, or is on a ledge, open stairwell, building top, etc), immediately contact Campus Safety at 215-572-2999.

If the student is experiencing a mental health crisis and is not in immediate danger, contact Counseling Services (located in Heinz Hall) at 267-620-4891 (temporary number), Monday through Friday, 8:30 AM – 4:30 PM

Arcadia counselors provide crisis intervention for students who are experiencing a mental health crisis. During normal business hours, members of the Arcadia community may contact Counseling Services to request a brief meeting with a counselor to discuss urgent situations. You may also consider walking with the student to Counseling Services. 

A Student in Distress

Stress is a part of every student’s life. However, there are some indicators that, when present over time, suggest that a student’s stress level may be a cause for concern. In these circumstances, you might see or hear the following:

  • Uncharacteristic changes in academic performance
  • Uncharacteristic changes in attendance at class or meetings
  • Depressed mood
  • Hyperactivity and/or rapid speech
  • Social withdrawal
  • Increased alcohol or drug use
  • Marked change in dress, hygiene, or weight
  • Repeatedly falling asleep in class
  • Requests for extensions or special considerations or accommodations
  • New or recurrent behavior that interferes with the effective management of your class, work team, etc.
  • Unusual or exaggerated emotional response to events
How to help a student experiencing psychological distress

When you have determined that a student may be struggling due to psychological distress, we suggest the following guidelines for making a referral:

  • Talk to the student privately and express your concerns directly. This may help minimize embarrassment and defensiveness.
  • Be honest and specific about your concerns. Explain why you want to talk. Example: “I am really worried about how you are doing. I want to try to understand what is going on for you.”
  • Describe your observations in a non-judgmental way. Example: “For the past two weeks, I’ve noticed that you seem sleepy in class, participate less than you used to, and have missed classes.”
  • Express your feelings. Example: “I’m concerned about you.”
  • Listen to what the student tells you.
  • Offer your recommendations. If you have determined that a student might benefit from professional counseling, we suggest the following guidelines:
  • Anticipate student’s concerns and fears about seeking counseling. Be prepared to discuss them.
  • Tell the student how to contact Counseling Services.
  • Have the student call 267-620-4891 (temporary number), or stop by to make an appointment with the next available counselor. If it is an urgent situation, help the student identify the need to speak with a therapist urgently, and inform the receptionist of who made the referral (faculty, staff, administrator).

You Don’t Have to Do It Alone

If you are unsure about how to handle a specific situation with a student, we encourage you to consult with one of the counselors on our staff. Call us at 267-620-4891 (temporary number) and ask to speak with one of our counselors. A brief consultation may help you sort out the relevant issues and explore various approaches.

If you are not comfortable talking with a student directly or a student is unwilling to follow your referral recommendations, it is important that you share your concern with others. 

Counseling Center Quick Facts

  • There is no charge for our services for fulltime students.
  • Services are confidential and records are NOT part of students’ academic records.
  • 10-20% of current students use the Counseling Center each year.
  • We are available for appointments M-F 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM.
  • We have walk-in hours M-F 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM.