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How to recognize when a student may need support


Even with all that can be done to create a learning environment that promotes student well-being, students may still be struggling with their mental health for a variety of reasons. In these cases, it can be helpful to know what signs to look out for that may indicate a student needs support.

Below are a few of the indicators that may be noticed:

Academic indicators

  • Decreased work quality
  • Missed assignments/exams
  • Repeated absences

Physical indicators

  • Change in physical appearance
  • Bloodshot/watery eyes
  • Disorganized, rapid or slurred speech

Behavioural/emotional indicators

  • Expressions of severe anxiety
  • Difficulty controlling emotions
  • Seeming more withdrawn or more animated than usual

Safety/emergency indicators

  • Expressions of hopelessness or helplessness
  • Written/oral statements concerning despair, death or suicide
  • Physical aggression towards themselves or others
  • Disruptive behaviour that seems unmanageable

Upon noticing any of these behaviours, decide if they are a cause for concern. If they are, take the time to talk to the student in private when it is appropriate. In this conversation, note the changes you have seen, offer your support and connect them to resources if necessary.

For more information on how to recognize, respond and refer students in distress, and how to reflect on this experience, please visit CICMH’s More Feet on the Ground training at www.morefeetontheground.ca. This free online mental health training provides valuable training for non-clinical staff and faculty on campuses wishing to support students.

Guide: PDF Version