Helping a Student in Trouble
College and graduate school can be an emotional transition for any student. The college age range is also when the majority of conditions like depression and anxiety disorders emerge. It can be hard to tell whether a student is dealing with manageable anxiety, sadness or anger, or a condition that may require counseling and treatment. When left unaddressed, mental health issues can lead to academic failure, social withdrawal, substance abuse and self-harm.
NYU has a comprehensive system for protecting and improving the emotional health of our campus community, and for identifying and treating students who may be struggling. Your access to students allows you to play an important role in noticing warning signs of problems and encouraging students to take advantage of counseling and other resources on campus.
- 55% of NYU students reported that emotional or mental difficulties had hurt their academic performance for one or more days in the past month. (1)
- 90% of college or university counseling center directors in the United States report an increase in psychological problems among their students. (2)
- 75% of lifetime mental disorders have first onset by the typical college age range of 18-24. (3)
- Suicide is the third leading cause of death among 15-24 year olds. (4)
- Talk about where students can go for help before they need help. It’s important that students see counseling as a resource they can access before problems worsen and impact their college experience or wellbeing. At the beginning of the semester and during difficult times of the semester, like mid-terms and finals, remind students that they can call the Wellness Exchange at 212-443-9999 or speak to a counselor at the Student Health Center. Presenting these resources in an open, casual and nonjudgmental way will help students see you as an ally and make them aware of helpful resources.
- Email students with two unexplained absences from class. Two unexplained absences or frequently missed assignments can be signs of emerging emotional difficulties. Reaching out to students via email can show them that you noticed and care, and help determine if support services may be needed. The email could be as simple as: “I’ve noticed you’ve been absent from class multiple times. Are you ok? Please let me know if you want to talk or if I can be of any help to you.”
- Take action if you notice any of the common signs that a student may be having emotional troubles or even feeling suicidal. If you notice any of the following signs, you can ask to meet privately with the student or call the Wellness Exchange at 212-443-9999 for guidance on how to refer him or her to help:
- References to death or suicide in conversation, jokes, or writings
- Preoccupation with death and dying
- Withdrawal from friends and social activities
- Loss of interest in schoolwork, work, and other activities
- Abrupt changes in behavior, mood or appearance
- Pursuit of dangerous activities
- References to previous suicide attempts
- Drug or alcohol problems
- Signs of depression: crying, hopelessness, sleeping or eating problems, low energy, low self-esteem, excessive guilt
- Having strong relationships and good stress management skills are important to maintaining good emotional health. Check out tips on Stress & Sleep and Relationships & Social Connections for more ways to support student emotional health.
1. Healthy Minds Study 2009 School Report: New York University.
2. Gallagher, R.P. (2008). National survey of counseling center directors. Alexandria, VA: International Association of Counseling Services.
3. Kessler, R.C., Berglund, P., Demler, O., et al. (2005). Lifetime prevalence and age-of-onset distributions of DSM-IV disorders in the national comorbidity survey replication. Archives of General Psychiatry, 62, 593–602.
4. Xu, J., Kochanek, K.D., Murphy, S.L., & Tejada-Vera, B. (2010, May 20). Deaths: Final data for 2007. National Vital Statistics Reports, 58, 19.