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Identifying Students At-Risk

Every college student feels stressed, depressed, or anxious at times.  When these feelings persist over a long period, however, there may be a problem greater than those problems faced by the general student population. 

The following behaviors can all be important signs of distress. As a staff, faculty or a peer, you may notice a student exhibiting one or more of the academic, physical, or emotional signs and decide that something is clearly wrong. Or you may have a "gut-level feeling" that something is amiss. If the latter is the case, don't dismiss your feelings or feel that you need to wait for tangible "proof" that a problem exists. A simple check-in with the student may help you get a better sense of his/her situation.

Academic signs

• Deterioration in quality/quantity of work 
• A negative change in classroom or research performance (e.g., drop in grades) 
• Missed assignments or exams 
• Repeated absences from class
• Disorganized or erratic performance 
• Decline in enthusiasm in class (e.g., no longer choosing a seat in the front of the room)
• Student sends frequent, lengthy, "ranting" or threatening types of emails to professor
• Continual seeking of special provisions (e.g., late papers, extensions, postponed exams, and projects)

Physical signs

• Falling asleep in class or other inopportune times 
• A dramatic change in energy level (either direction) 
• Worrisome changes in hygiene or personal appearance 
• Significant changes in weight 
• Frequent state of alcohol intoxication (i.e., bleary-eyed, hung-over, smelling of alcohol)
• Noticeable cuts, bruises or burns on student

Emotional signs

• Inappropriate emotional outbursts (unprovoked anger or hostility, sobbing)
• Exaggerated personality traits; more withdrawn or more animated than usual
• Expressions of hopelessness, fear or worthlessness; themes of suicide, death and dying in papers/projects 
• Direct statements indicating distress, family problems, or other difficulties 
• Peer concern about a fellow student (in class, lab, residence hall, club) 

It's possible that any one of these signs, in and of itself, may simply mean that a student is having an "off" day.  Consider consulting with a colleague, supervisor, associate dean, or other trusted member of the KU community to share your observations, and discuss options for response.

Please note, any one serious sign (e.g., a student writes a paper expressing hopelessness and/or thoughts of suicide) or a cluster of smaller signs (e.g., emotional outbursts, repeated absence, a noticeable cut on the arm) necessitates an intervention.

If you are not sure if a student's behavior calls for a KUBIT referral, please complete a KUBIT Referral form and/or contact the Office of the Dean of Students (610-683-4075 or to discuss your concerns.

 NOTE:   In cases where a student's behavior poses an imminent threat to you or another, contact KU Public Safety & Police Services immediately at 610-683-4001.