Approaching a Troubled Student


At times, you will have concerns about a student's well-being, and you will want to approach them. You may have noticed some of the "Warning Signs" outlined in Section I, or you may have heard a rumor that the person is having difficulty.

Approaching another person with concerns can be a precarious process for anyone. We feel worried about that person, we want to do something, yet approaching them feels intrusive. The guidelines below can help you through this difficult process.

Pull together your facts. Make a list of all the things that are causing you concern. If you have seen things for yourself, make note of it. If you have heard rumors, make note of what you have heard. For example: Have you noticed that the student hasn't been in class for two weeks? Have you heard friends of a student express concern that she is not eating?

Consider your feelings. How are you feeling about the person you need to approach (e.g., worried, scared for them, curious)? How are you feeling about approaching them (e.g. anxious, comfortable, totally freaked)? Think of ways to manage your feelings in the situation. What can you do to feel more relaxed? Usually, preparation is one way to feel more confident going into a situation.

Remember your Guidelines. Once the student starts talking, remember your Guidelines.

Convey your concerns in a caring manner. For example: "I'm worried that you're missing class so much."

Share with the student specific behaviors that you've noticed or heard about. For example, "Three of your friends have expressed concern about your eating."

Avoid giving simple solutions to complex problems.

Remember that even if you have done your best, a student may not respond to you. Sometimes we do what we can and then we must let go and allow the student to take action in their own time. However, if the student is a danger to him/herself and/or others, immediate help is required. You should keep the person in your office and call the University Counseling Services at ext. 6204 or Campus Police at ext. 2677.

Information in this site is not intended to replace a one-on-one consultation with a licensed mental health worker.  If you are a student having problems, we urge you to contact us at 412.396.6204 to schedule an appointment.