Helping Students of Concern
CAPS recognizes that in your critical roles as faculty and staff at the university, you are often the frontline contact with students. CAPS is here to support you, and together, we can promote student success at UH. If you become concerned about a student’s behavior, it is important to be informed and know where to get help. The following information is a list of warning signs, tips on how to respond and refer, and important contact numbers on and off campus. These lists are not exhaustive, but may help you recognize warning signs, talk to the student and ultimately refer the student to the appropriate services. CAPS is staffed by licensed psychologists and advanced graduate students trained to further assess and treat persons with such symptoms.
IF: Dangerous Student
Safety is an immediate concern; Verbal or physical threats to harm others; Active threats of suicide and resistance to help
Then: CALL 911
IF: Disruptive or Disturbing Student
Disruptive to the learning environment; Safety is not an immediate concern; threatens to harm self or others, but will accept help; Demonstrates bizarre behavior or communications
IF: Student of Concern
Not disruptive to the learning environment, but is troubled, confused, very sad, highly anxious, irritable, lacks motivation and/or concentration; has thoughts of not wanting to live; difficulties in interactions with others
Then: For Mental Health Consultation or Referral
Conduct Assessment and Response Team (CART)
Dean of Students Office
University of Houston Department of Public Safety
Q. What are some signs that a student may be struggling?
Struggling students may not be disruptive to others, but may exhibit behaviors which indicate something is problematic. They may also be reluctant or unable to acknowledge a need for personal help. Behaviors may include:
- Marked changes in academic performance
- Tardiness and excessive absences inconsistent with prior history
- Changes in emotional states, e.g., sadness, crying, lethargy, irritability, rapid speech, preoccupation, increased and more intense disagreement with peers and instructor, sense of confusion
- Changes in physical well-being, e.g. swollen eyes from crying, increased illness, poor self-hygiene, rapid weight loss/gain, sleeping in class
- Repeated requests for special consideration, e.g. deadline extensions, changes in requirements, grade changes
- Behaviors which may interfere with effect management of the learning environment, e.g. outbursts of anger, domination of discussion, derailing the focus of the course
Q. What are warning signs of disruptive student behavior?
Disruptive or disturbing students exhibit behaviors that signify an obvious crisis and necessitate more immediate intervention. Examples include:
- Highly disruptive behavior (e.g. verbal hostility, aggression, disregard for classroom decorum and expected conduct, etc.); failure to comply with corrective feedback
- Inability to communicate clearly (garbled, pressured speech; disorganized, confused, or rambling thoughts)
- Loss of contact with reality (seeing or hearing things which others cannot see or hear; irrational beliefs or fears that others may be conspiring against them)
- Stalking behaviors and inappropriate communications (including threatening letters, e-mail messages, harassment)
- Suicidal thoughts and/or threats to harm others (may be communicated orally or in written formats through e-mail, assignments, or on social network or academic sites)
Additional Warning Signs
- Previous suicide attempts
- Significant alcohol or drug use
- Threatening or communicating thoughts of suicide, death, dying or the afterlife
- Sudden increase in moodiness, withdrawal, or isolation
- Major change in eating or sleeping habits
- Feelings of hopelessness, guilt or worthlessness
- Poor control over behavior
- Impulsive, aggressive behavior
- Giving away important possessions
- Drop in quality of school performance/interest
- Lack of interest in usual activities
- Getting into trouble with authority figures
- Hinting at not being around in the future or saying good-bye
- A recent death or suicide of a friend or family member
- A recent break-up with a boyfriend or girlfriend, or conflict with parents
- News reports of other suicides in the same school or community
- A history of violent or aggressive behavior
- Serious drug or alcohol use
- Gang membership/strong desire to be in a gang
- Trouble controlling feelings like anger
- Threatening others regularly
- Access to or fascination with weapons, especially guns
- Withdrawal from friends and usual activities
- Feeling rejected or alone
- Having been a victim of bullying
- Poor school performance
- History of discipline problems or frequent run-ins with authority figures
- Feeling constantly disrespected
- Failing to acknowledge the feelings or rights of others
How to Respond
- If immediate safety is a concern or the person acts in a highly irrational or disruptive way, call 911.
- If safety is not a concern, attempt to de-escalate the situation; offer to find someone to assist in problem-solving.
- Speak with the student privately.
- Allow time for the conversation.
- Express your concerns in terms of what you have noticed in their behavior (e.g. being increasingly reserved in class or turning in writings of a particularly dark nature).
- Be empathetic and listen to their thoughts and feelings.
- Ask about the student’s intentions directly (e.g. “Are you thinking about suicide?” or “Are you thinking about harming someone else?”).
- Offer hope through discussing treatment at CAPS (e.g. “I think that meeting with someone at CAPS could make a big difference in how you are feeling”).
- Acknowledge the stigma that some associate with therapy and emphasize help-seeking as a strength.
- Provide a few facts about CAPS (e.g. CAPS services are confidential except under unusual, well-defined circumstances; therapists deal with a wide range of personal concerns).
- Follow up with the student and provide support as appropriate. This can really show you care and increase the student’s willingness to complete treatment.
- Talk with your supervisor for additional assistance and determine if there are existing departmental polices and/or procedures in place that may assist you in resolving the issue.
- Consult with CAPS, CART and/or UHDPS.
- Notify the Dean of Students Office if appropriate.
How to Refer
If you have concerns for the student’s immediate safety or the immediate safety of another, contact 911. Safety precedes treatment. Depending on the situation, you can help facilitate an appointment by:
- Having the student call CAPS in your presence and asking them to schedule an appointment. They may request a same-day appointment if they have an urgent concern.
- Calling CAPS and asking to speak with a consultant on duty for consultation.
- Calling CAPS and asking to speak to a consultant on duty to indicate that you are concerned about a student’s well-being and that you will be walking them over to CAPS. You may then escort the student to CAPS.
You can always call CAPS to speak with a consultant on duty if you have any mental health questions or concerns regarding any student, staff, or faculty.
- In an emergency when safety is an immediate concern, call 911.
- CAPS and the Dean of Students Office are available for consultation.
- The Conduct Assessment and Response Team (CART) chaired by the Dean of Students and comprised of CAPS, UHDPS, Student Housing and Residential Life, Academic Program Management, and General Counsel, can facilitate campus efforts to assist the student and provide support for faculty and staff.
|Dean of Students Office
|Counseling & Psychological Services
|Student Health Center
|Residential Life and Housing
If a student is in crisis, here is a list of additional resources:
|Crisis Intervention of Houston
|Gay and Lesbian Switchboard of Houston
|Houston Police Department Crisis Intervention
|Mental Health Mental Retardation Authority (MHMRA)
|Mobile Crisis Outreach Team
|National Center for Victims of Crime Stalking Resource Center
|National Strategy for Suicide Prevention
|National Suicide Hotline (TTY Capable)
|NeuroPsychiatric Center (NPC) Psychiatric Emergency Services (PES)
|NeuroPsychiatric Center (NPC) Crisis Stabilization Unit
|University of Houston Department of Public Safety