Assisting Students in Distress

There is a doctrine of the common good on this campus. 
It is a habit as deeply rooted in the university’s founding as is its liberal
arts heritage.  Simply, we care about each other.  If your friend,
roommate, classmate or someone you see in the library, on the practice field or
in the dining hall needs help, reach out.  We have many resources for
mental health.

William L. Fox
President

Helping Students in
Distress

Going
off to college can be a stressful transition for many college freshman as well
as upper classmen. Adapting to the demands of academia, social pressure and
normal adjustment issues can be stressful for many students. Individuals with inadequate
coping skills often become overwhelmed. To help individuals who are distressed,
you can begin by becoming aware of signs that distressed students display. The
more signs observed, the more likely the individual is to be truly distressed.

Signs of Distress

Emotional Signs

  • dramatic changes in mood
  • indications of feeling out of control, trapped, hopeless
  • forgetfulness, inability to concentrate
  • expressions of feeling insecure, worthless
  • anxiety, worry
  • panic attacks, extreme fearfulness
  • depression, sadness
  • anger, agitation, irritability

Behavioral Signs

  • change in appetite – under or overeating
  • changes in sleep patterns – insomnia or excessive sleep
  • poor personal hygiene
  • increased drug/alcohol abuse
  • withdrawing from friends/family
  • acting impulsively or recklessly, engaging in risky
    activities, unusual acting out
  • crying spells
  • indecisiveness, restlessness
  • relationship conflicts
  • frequent complaints of physical ailments
  • verbal or written threats of suicide, or expressions of a
    wish to die.

If you are concerned about the safety
of a student, immediately contact the Counseling Center at (315) 229-5392 or
Safety & Security at (315) 229-5555. There is a counselor on call 24 hours a
day that can be contacted through Safety and Security (229-5555).

Guidelines for Dealing with Someone in
Distress

  • Talk to the
    person. Share observations and ask about the individual’s experience. 
  • Be accepting
    and non-judgmental. Avoid minimizing their feelings or judging them
    for feeling distressed.
  • Show
    interest and concern. Be patient.
  • Do not
    promise to maintain confidentiality. You may be obligated to report to
    other resources.
  • Know your
    limits as a helper. Indicate in a gentle but direct manner that
    professional assistance is the positive step which is needed to deal with
    the pain. Help connect the person with the appropriate resources.
  • Consult, refer.
    Don’t hesitate to contact the following resources for consultation if you
    are not sure how to proceed:

Recognizing Depression

Everyone gets down from time to time, but sometimes it's more than
just "the blues." Depression is a real illness that can be treated
effectively. Unfortunately, fewer than half of the people who have this illness
seek treatment.

The signs and symptoms of clinical
depression are:

  • Persistent
    sad, anxious or "empty" mood and changes in sleep patterns
  • Reduced appetite and weight loss, or
    increased appetite and weight gain
  • Loss of pleasure and interest in
    once-enjoyable activities, including sex
  • Restlessness, irritability
  • Persistent physical symptoms that do not
    respond to treatment, such as chronic pain or digestive disorders
  • Difficulty concentrating at work or at
    school, or difficulty remembering things or making decisions
  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Feeling guilty, hopeless or worthless
  • Thoughts of suicide or death

If
a person experiences five or more of these symptoms for two weeks or longer, they
could have clinical depression. You can help by suggesting the student make an
appointment at the SLU Health & Counseling Center. If the person indicates
they are having thoughts of suicide, seek help from the Counseling Center or
Safety & Security. Mental
Health America
 

Recognizing Anxiety

College can
be stressful. An individual can easily get anxious trying to juggle school,
work, friends, and family while trying to figure out the rest of their life.
Most people bounce back. But frequent, intense, and uncontrollable anxiety that
interferes with daily routines may be a sign of an anxiety disorder.

Everyday
anxiety or an anxiety disorder?

Everyday Anxiety

Anxiety Disorder

Worry about paying bills, landing a job, a romantic
breakup, or other important life events

Constant and unsubstantiated worry that causes significant
distress and interferes with daily life

Embarrassment or self-consciousness in an uncomfortable or
awkward social situation

Avoiding social situations for fear of being judged,
embarrassed, or humiliated

A case of nerves or sweating before a big test, business
presentation, stage performance, or other significant event

Seemingly out-of-the-blue panic attacks and the
preoccupation with the fear of having another one

Realistic fear of a dangerous object, place, or situation

Irrational fear or avoidance of an object, place, or
situation that poses little or no threat of danger

Making sure that you are healthy and living in a safe
hazard-free environment

Performing uncontrollable repetitive actions such as
excessive cleaning or checking, or touching and arranging

Anxiety, sadness, or difficulty sleeping immediately after
a traumatic event

Recurring nightmares, flashbacks, or emotional numbing
related to a traumatic event that occurred several months or years before

Anxiety Disorders Association of America