Assessment and Care Team (ACT)

Tips for Recognizing Students in Distress

The “D” scale is a way to measure and assess mental health related risks. 

Distress- A student in distress is characterized by the following traits:

  • Emotionally troubled (e.g. depressed, agitated, unstable).
  • Individuals impacted by actual/perceived situation stressors and traumatic events.

You may observe these behaviors: 

  • Changes in academic performances in the classroom 
  • Scores for examinations significantly drop
  • Changes in pattern of interaction
  • Changes in physical appearance
  • Problems concentrating, remembering things or making decisions

Disturbance- The student has increasingly disruptive behaviors. You may observe these behaviors: 

  • Repeating requests for special consideration 
  • New or regularly occurring behavior, which pushes the limit and may interfere with class management or be disruptive to other students or college employers 
  • Unusual or exaggerated emotional responses (ex: venting, screaming, swearing)
  • Persistent sadness or unexplained crying
  • High levels of irritability or inappropriate excitement
  • Any substance misuse and abuse

Dysregulation- The student is deficient in skills that regulate emotion, cognition, self, behavior, and relationships. You may observe these behaviors: 

  • Statements related to death, dying or feelings of hopelessness
  • Threats of harming self or others
  • Behavior that is highly disturbed
  • Outbursts of anger
  • Inability to communicate easily
  • Irrational conversation or speech that seems disconnected
  • Loss of contact with reality; such as seeing or hearing things that are not there, beliefs or actions at odds with reality
  • Suspiciousness, irrational feelings or persecution
  • Intimidation through verbal or nonverbal threatening behavior
  • Destructive, harmful or threatening behaviors/attitudes towards others

Warning Signs of Suicidal Behavior

Expression to kill self or wishing to be dead
Presence of a plan to harm self
Means are available to harm self
High stress due to academic difficulty, grief, illness
Depressive symptoms present (e.g. severe hopelessness,
loss of interest, changes in hygiene)