Troubled and Troubling Students—Some Markers and Guidelines Counseling & Consultation Services Dr. Thom Stanger, Director The gist is noticeable, significant changes—e.g. the student who has a different colored hair each day and no jeans sans holes is little reason for concern when they show up in class with purple hair and torn blue jeans. Three main factors to weigh: 1) Extremity—frequency, duration, and multiplicity of distress markers 2) Degree of divergence from personal norms—how out of character? 3) Level of disruptiveness—for self and others Notable change in academic performance, such as deteriorating class work, excessive procrastination, decrease in class attendance, disruptive behavior; papers with themes of distress, hopelessness, death, violence, etc. Overly dependent—the student hangs around or makes excessive appointments to see you Repeated requests for special consideration (e.g., deadline extensions) Physical changes—especially sudden weight loss or gain, deteriorating personal hygiene, extreme fatigue lasting beyond a day or two Withdrawal and isolation from others (relative to personal norms) Inability to concentrate or make decisions despite repeated attempts to clarify, encourage Bizarre or strange behavior which is obviously out of place, e.g. talking to someone/thing that is not present (for those who like psychologese, that would be psychotic—aka, hallucinating or delusional) Impaired speech and disjointed thoughts Frequent or high levels of irritable, argumentative, abrasive or aggressive behavior Overreaction to criticism or mistakes, agitation Overly emotional: o Euphoria; unusually fast, non-stop, tangential speech; grandiose; extreme impulsivity o Or the opposite—sad, despondent, tearful; lethargic, non-responsive Threats or acts of violence to self or others; increase in risk-taking behavior What to Do—Possible Actions & Guidelines… Consult! If in doubt, call Counseling & Consultation Services for guidance/perspective. Note: you can tell a counselor virtually anything (which we will keep confidential, unless we ask you otherwise), but understand that a counselor cannot divulge information about a client (for many good reasons), or whether a person has even come in. Check it out: talk to the student in a private, comfortable place, like your office Express concern in a non-judgmental and accepting manner. Be as specific as possible in stating your observations and reasons for concern. Listen actively and carefully; then communicate the gist of what the student has told you to verify your understanding and effort (aka paraphrasing). Convey to the student that professional, confidential assistance is available to all students free of charge, and consulting with a counselor is a positive step, not a sign of weakness. Be mindful of your boundaries/limits; some distressed students may push past what you are able or willing to do. *** You don’t need to remember all of this information—just know it is available, and you can consult with an experienced counselor. When needed, this and more detailed information can be reviewed on the Counseling & Consultation Services website: NMU home Current Students Student Services Home—Resources. CCS as well as all other student services sites can be found on this webpage.
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