Who are Students in Distress?

"Students in distress" include students exhibiting significant signs of extreme emotional duress, suicidal threats, gestures or attempts, disordered eating, or disruptive behavior.

What You Might Notice

The following symptoms and behaviors may indicate a mental health problem:

  • Depressed, apathetic mood
  • Intense stress and anxiety
  • Excessive alcohol/substance use
  • Low weight, preoccupation with weight
  • References to suicide
  • Missing class or assignments
  • Alarming writings, emails or comments
  • Crying and tearfulness
  • Odd or bizarre behavior
  • Threatening comments and behavior

Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act

Many university personnel are concerned about FERPA violations when discussing distressed students. However, FERPA does allow exceptions to privacy or the sharing of information when there are legitimate educational interests and/or health and safety concerns. Furthermore, while FERPA covers educational records, it does not include “observations” (unless they are stored electronically or in writing).

How to Help

In a private setting:

  1. Express your concern for the student and observations of them, “I’m a little worried about you. You have been missing class, you seem down and you wrote a lot about death in your paper. How are things going for you?”
  2. If it seems the student needs professional help, e.g., s/he says "I've been feeling depressed"; "I'm so stressed"; "I've been missing most of my classes"; then make a referral to the Counseling Center. State, "I'd like you to talk to a professional". Provide the number or have the student call from your office.
  3. Follow up with student later. “Did you make an appointment at the Counseling Center?” Further persuade the student to get help if s/he did not.
  4. If the student continues to be of concern and does not follow up with a referral, contact Dr. Stephanie Quade , Dean of Students, and Chair of the CARE Team (414) 288-1412.
  5. Consult with Counseling Center at any time.

Helping a Student with Suicidal Thoughts

The student must be assessed by a professional.

  1. Contact the Counseling Center and arrange for an immediate appointment with the on-call counselor.
  2. Escort the student to the Counseling Center.
  3. If after 4:30 p.m., contact the on-call counselor through Marquette University Police Department at (414) 288-1911
  4. If the student has written suicidal thoughts (e.g., email, paper) contact him/her immediately and direct the student to the Counseling Center. If after 4:30 p.m., contact the on-call counselor through Marquette University Police Department at (414) 288-1911.
  5. If a student has already attempted suicide (e.g., overdosed, cut wrists) contact Marquette University Police Department at (414) 288-1911 or call 911.
  6. An additional option is to direct the student or accompany him/her to the nearest Emergency Room. Tell the intake worker that the student is suicidal.

If You Feel Threatened by a Student

Distinguish between whether you feel threatened or are actually being threatened by the student. If you feel threatened or uncomfortable with a student’s behavior (e.g., loud talk, yelling, confrontational):

  1. Give feedback: “You are shouting.” “You are talking disrespectfully to me.”
  2. Ask for appropriate behavior: “I want you to lower your voice.” “I’d like you to stop swearing.”
  3. Set limits: “I will have to ask you to leave; if you continue, I will talk to the dean about your behavior.”
  4. Inform your dean/chair/supervisor and document the encounter. Be clear with the student that this behavior is unacceptable in the future.
  5. Consider consulting with the Counseling Center, Marquette University Police Department, or the CARE Team at any point.
  6. Consider contacting the Dean of Students (414) 288-1412 to activate the process.

If You Feel You Are At Risk To Be Hurt Physically

  1. Immediately call Marquette University Police Department at (414) 288-1911 and ask for assistance.
  2. Try to calm the student and avoid conflict.
  3. Try to exit the situation and attain safety as soon as possible.

Possible Strategies for Distressed Students

  1. Consult with your dean/chair/supervisor about contacting parents if the student is unresponsive to a referral and you remain concerned, or if the student is severely distressed (e.g., suicidal, not making sense).
  2. Have your dean/chair/supervisor contact the CARE Team to facilitate a coordinated effort to help the student.
  3. Document encounters with the student.
  4. Keep your dean/chair/supervisor informed of events.