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Recognizing Distressed Students & Peer Group Services

Distress manifests itself with multiple signs and symptoms. To avoid over-interpretation of a single or isolated behavior, it is advisable to look for clusters of signs that appear around the same time, such as the following:

  • Stated Need for Help: A student may express a desire for assistance with a problem directly or indirectly.
  • References to Suicide: If an individual talks about or alludes to details of how, when, or where he or she may be contemplating suicide, then an immediate referral is necessary.
  • Changes in Mood or Behavior Actions: Which are inconsistent with a person's normal behavior may indicate that he or she is experiencing psychological distress.
  • Anxiety and Depression: Anxiety and depression are two of the more common psychological disturbances that can present significant problems for students.
  • Psycho-Physiologic Symptoms: Physical symptoms may include a loss of appetite, excessive sleeping, or gastrointestinal distress.
  • Traumatic Changes in Personal Relationships: Personal problems often result when an individual experiences traumatic changes in personal relationships such as: death of a family member or a close friend, the breakup of relationships, parental divorce, changes in family responsibilities, or  difficulties with finances, etc.
  • Drug and Alcohol Abuse: Indications of excessive drinking or other substance abuses are almost always indicative of psychological problems, such as: frequent absences, tardiness, missed assignments, sleepiness, poor concentration, and spotty performance may point to substance abuse.
  • Career Choice Problems: It is rather common for college students to go through periods of career indecision and uncertainty.  However, chronic indecisiveness can be a debilitating experience and many students need assistance in developing alternative goals when previous decisions prove to be in need of revision.
  • Learning Problems: Many students find the demands of college-level academic work to be greater than they anticipated. Poor study habits, incapacitating test anxiety, or repeated absences from class are all indicators that the student might benefit from psychological services.
  • Retention Issues: Psychological counseling services can be effective in combating student attrition.

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