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Assisting a Distressed Student

girl in classroomStudents frequently experience a great deal of stress during their university careers. Many students successfully cope with these pressures, but some find themselves overwhelmed.

Because emotional distress typically interferes with a student's academic performance and/or social interactions, faculty and staff are often in good positions to recognize students who are in trouble.

According to the 2012 American College Health Association National College Health Assessment survey of 90,666 college students from 141 post secondary institutions, during the past year (2012):

  • 86.8% have felt overwhelmed by all they had to do at least once.
  • 46.5% have felt things were hopeless at least once.
  • 31.6% have felt so depressed that it was difficult to function.
  • 30.5% have received a lower grade due to problems dealing with stress.
  • 21.0 % have received a lower grade due to problems dealing with Anxiety
  • 7.50% have seriously contemplated suicide at least 1 time, while 1.2% actually attempted.
  • 10.9% have received a lower grade on an exam due to a relationship difficulty.
  • 5.00% have received a lower grade on an exam due to alcohol use.

And, 10.6 % of college students have been formally diagnosed with depression during the past 12 months.  It is important to remember that most of these students are not really different from other students, faculty or staff. Most are experiencing situational frustrations, pressures, conflicts and, in their own way, are asking for help. The following brief descriptions and comments on possible interventions may be helpful when you are dealing with students in distress.

The following documents (PDFs) can be helpful if you have students or friends in need of help.