Warning Signs of Possible Problems
We know that college students often talk with friends in need, but don’t know what to do. Whether you’re a student, a family member, or faculty/staff, this page will give you guidance on what to do when you’re concerned about someone.
What should I watch out for?
It’s normal for all of us to act a little unusual at times. But certain behaviors, when they occur frequently, suggest more serious psychological concerns. The following are some common signs that a person may be facing some difficulty and could benefit from counseling or from your concerned questions:
Mood: Depression, or extreme sadness or hopelessness; anxiety; anger; mood swings.
Physical signs: Deteriorating grooming habits or physical state; pronounced weight change; signs of substance abuse, such as dilated pupils, unsteady gait, slurred words, or the smell of liquor on breath.
Performance: Concentration difficulties; unexplained lateness or absences; deteriorating work habits or academic performance.
Social behavior: Extreme or inappropriate withdrawal or dependency.
Speech: Irrational or unusually rapid or slow speech; frequent references to problems, or to feeling guilty or worthless; references to death or suicide.
I see these signs. How can I help?
Listen with genuine interest: You don’t have to pry to detect distress. People often signal their distress quite clearly. If possible, find a time to talk privately with the student. Allow sufficient time for the discussion. Point out the specific signs you observed. Tell the student you’re concerned, and ask for a response. Discourage quick dismissals (a response such as “I’m fine —- it’s nothing.”). Let the student know you really want to help them get help.
Normalize getting help: For example, you may state, “Do you know that many students struggle with difficulties? We have professional counselors on campus to help deal with ________. The Counseling Center is located in Fowler Student Center, next to the Health Service. You can call them at 503-768-7160, or stop by their office to schedule an appointment; or check out their website.”
Making the referral: Most students can be directed to the Counseling Center via the website, email email@example.com or by calling 503-768-7160. If the student seems to be at high risk for suicide or for harm to others, it is best to walk them over to the Counseling Center.
What if there is an imminent risk to someone’s health or safety?
If the student is on campus, contact Campus Safety at 503-768-7777. If the student is off campus, call 911 as Campus Safety does not respond to off-campus situations. The first priority must always be to keep the person safe.
If there is serious concern but not necessarily imminent risk, contact the Counseling Center at 503-768-7160 during daytime working hours: 8:30 a.m.-noon, 1-4:30 p.m. on days when undergraduate classes are in session. (Note that summer hours are more limited.) If it’s after working hours and your situation cannot wait, contact Campus Safety at 503-768-7777.
More information about after-hours support for medical or psychological crises is available here.
What if I’m concerned that someone I care about might be experiencing psychotic symptoms?
Click here to access a confidential, anonymous screening to determine if the person you’re concerned about might be showing signs of psychosis.
What if I’m concerned about someone’s health or safety, but the situation isn’t imminent?
You can call the Counseling Center at 503-768-7160 for a confidential consultation.
Alternatively, you can reach out to the college’s Welfare Intervention Network (WIN). The Welfare Intervention Network is a dedicated team of Lewis & Clark staff working together to share information and plan appropriate outreach efforts to help students, faculty, and staff who may be a risk to themselves or others.
What if the student refuses to get help?
It can be frustrating when we want a person to get help, but they refuse. Patience and persistence are both important in these situations. You can sow the seeds for the person to get help, but they have to decide when the time is right. Follow up with the person you’re concerned about. Ask whether they have thought any more about getting help. Brainstorm about the different sources of help that might be available. If the person is reluctant to access the Counseling Center, how about the Health Service? How about off-campus help?
If you have concerns that someone’s life might be in danger and the person is refusing to get help, be sure to contact the Welfare Intervention Network (WIN). The Welfare Intervention Network is a dedicated team of Lewis & Clark staff working together to share information and plan appropriate outreach efforts to help students, faculty, and staff who may be a risk to themselves or others.
I don’t know what to do! Is there someone I can talk to about my student friend or family member?
Absolutely! Our clinical staff routinely talk with community members or family who are concerned about students. Give us a call at 503-768-7160. Information discussed in these consultations is generally confidential.