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Students in Distress FAQs

Referring a student/friend to the CWC

What are some signs a student may be in distress?

A student in distress may not be disruptive to others, but may exhibit behaviors which indicate something is problematic. The student may also be reluctant or unable to acknowledge a need for personal help. Behaviors may include:
  • Marked changes in academic performance
  • Tardiness and excessive absences inconsistent with their prior history
  • Withdrawal and/or avoidance from participation, increased anxiety around exams or deadlines, difficulty working in teams
  • Changes in emotional states, e.g., sadness, crying, lethargy, irritability, rapid speech, preoccupied, increased and more intense disagreement with peers and instructor, sense of confusion
  • Changes in physical well-being, swollen eyes from crying, increased sicknesses, poor self-hygiene, rapid weight loss/gain, sleeping in class
  • Repeated requests for special consideration, e.g., deadline extensions, changes in requirements, grade changes
  • Behaviors which may interfere with effective management of the learning environment, e.g., outbursts of anger, domination of discussion, derailing the focus of discourse
  • Communication in either oral or written formats that may suggest a threat to one’s self or others

What are warning signs of disruptive student behavior?

Severely troubled or disruptive students exhibit behaviors that signify an obvious crisisand necessitate more immediate intervention. Examples include:
  • Highly disruptive behavior (e.g. verbal hostility, aggression, subversion of team work, disregard for classroom decorum and respectful conduct, etc.)
  • Failure to comply with corrective feedback
  • Inability to communicate clearly (garbled, pressured speech; disorganized, confused, or rambling thoughts)
  • Loss of contact with reality (seeing or hearing things which others cannot see or hear; irrational beliefs or fears that others may be conspiring against them)
  • Stalking behaviors and/or inappropriate communications (including threatening letters, e-mail messages, harassment)
  • Suicidal thoughts and/or threats to harm others (may be communicated orally or in written formats through e-mail, assignments, on social network or academic sites)

How should I respond to a disruptive student?

  • If immediate safety is a concern or the person acts in a highly irrational or disruptive way, on campus call 911 or UFPD at 352-392-1111
  • If safety is not a concern, attempt to deescalate the situation; offer to find someone to assist in problem-solving; negotiate a time to meet and work on a solution.
  • Talk with your supervisor to develop a response; have someone meet with you and the student
  • Consult with the Counseling and Wellness Center at 352-392-1575 and/or Dean of Students Office at 352-392-1261 for assistance
  • Implement the plan and follow up

How should I respond to a student that is troubled and showing signs of distress?

For students mildly or moderately troubled:
  • Address the situation on an individual level; consider having someone meet with you and the student
  • Consult with the Counseling and Wellness Center at 352-392-1575 and/or Dean of Students Office at 352-392-1261 for assistance
  • Talk with your supervisor to develop a response
  • Avoid offering confidentiality to the student should s/he wish to talk
  • Deal directly with the behavior according to classroom protocol; provide corrective feedback and offer to help
  • Encourage the student to use campus and community helping resources; offer to walk the student to assistance or call and make an appointment [Counseling and Wellness Center Radio Road at 352-392-1575 or the Crisis and Emergency Resource Center in Peabody Hall at 352-392-1576]
  • Follow up with the student and update your supervisor

How can I recognize and help the person who has thoughts about not wanting
to live?

Faculty and Staff sometimes find themselves talking to someone who appears to be very sad, hopeless and in despair. If the person’s conversation or behaviors suggest suicide may be a concern, here are some suggestions on how to help:
  • Listen and allow time to understand the scope of their concerns
  • Ask the question – “Based on what you are saying about how things are for you, I am wondering ...”
    • Are you thinking about not wanting to live
    • Are you thinking about killing yourself
  • Be persistent; If after further conversation you are still concerned, ask again
  • Offer hope and promote the idea of getting help
  • Refer to campus and community resources
    • Counseling and Wellness Center 352-392-1575
    • Alachua County Crisis Center 352-264-6789
  • Offer to walk them to a campus resource or make the phone call to arrange for the appointment or get information
  • Consult with the Counseling and Wellness Center, 352-392-1575 or 352-392-1576, and/or Dean of Students, 352-392-1261, for additional support
  • Communicate with your supervisor and develop a follow-up plan

NOTE: If the student is at risk for suicide, unwilling to accept help assistance and leaves the office, do not try to restrain him/her. Contact UFPD at  352-392-1111 for assistance. If the student is off campus and hangs up on the phone conversation, call 911 and notify your supervisor.


Counseling and Wellness Center
3190 Radio Road, PO Box 112662
Gainesville, FL 32611-2662
Phone: (352) 392-1575
Fax: (352) 273-4738

Office Hours:  Mon-Fri, 8am-5pm

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