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C.A.R.E. Resources: Faculty and Staff

College students are reporting depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts or behaviors more and more on campus.  You may not be aware of how you can help these students.  You can call the Dean of Student Life office 503-725-5341 or Student Health and Counseling 503-725-2800 to consult whenever you are concerned about a student.

What is a “student in distress?”

Distressed is a term used to refer to students who have become unable to adequately cope with the stressors upon them.  Students like these may feel extremely overwhelmed, stressed, and have persistent negative thoughts and feelings.  They may be experiencing clinically significant levels of depression, anxiety, and even suicidal thoughts/behaviors.  These students may also be currently affected by a recent loss in their life or may be close to someone going through a loss.  They may be affected by a traumatic past experience.

As a member of the PSU community you are in a unique position to identify signs of distress and connect students to services to support their success. It is important to note observable behaviors that indicate distress. These can guide your consultation with the C.A.R.E. Team and/or your supervisor.  These include:

  •  Sudden academic change in performance or classroom participation
  • Repeated requests for special consideration
  • Excessive class absences
  • Isolation
  • Dramatic changes in self-care (eating, sleeping, hygiene)
  • Exaggerated emotional responses, moodiness or irritability
  • Mention of self-harm, assault, abuse, or incarceration
  • Inability to maintain appropriate boundaries
  • Hyperactivity and/or rapid speech
  • Bizarre, tangential, or paranoid communication
  • Substance use
  • Threats of violence
  • Repeated risky behavior

What Can I Do To Help?

Distressed students generally benefit from counseling or psychotherapy with a trained professional.  In fact, studies have shown counseling to lead to satisfactory outcomes for approximately 75% of clients.  Many PSU students, however, may not be aware of the free and confidential counseling services available to them at SHAC. 

With a distressed student, we recommend that you refer and, if feasible, walk the student to the Student Health and Counseling Center.  If the student seems to want to talk to you or it appears you may need to talk to the student before convincing them to come to the counseling center, you may choose to utilize some of the following skills:


Some faculty members worry that expressing concern for a student may offend the student.  However, appropriate empathy is one of the most effective antidotes for student distress.  It is appropriate for faculty and staff to express concern and care for students.  Use behaviorally specific (objective) examples without assuming a cause for the distress.  Let the student explain if they wish. 


Listening is often the most useful and under-utilized skill to use with someone in distress.  The art of listening and “being there” for someone who needs help may be all that is necessary for the student, particularly if they are unwilling to talk to a counselor. 

If you feel uncomfortable demonstrating empathy and listening to the student or feel it is beyond your role as a faculty/staff member you can consult with the Dean of Student Life Office 503-725-5341 for further assistance.