Ohio University

Guide to Student in Distress

Ohio University Guide to Assist Disruptive or Distressed Students

Office of the Dean of Students

The Office of the Dean of Students has developed this information guide to aid faculty and staff to RECOGNIZE, RESPOND and REFER students experiencing distress.

Immediate Assessment

  • Be aware of the location of the nearest telephone 
  • If you are concerned for your safety or that of others, call 911 immediately (911 calls on campus will go to Athens County 911 but will be rerouted to Ohio University Police) 
  • If the student is causing a disruption to the classroom or the office environment but does not pose a threat, discuss the situation with the student and address inappropriate behavior

Helpful Resources at OHIO

Treatment

 
Counseling & Psychological Services (740) 593-1616
Psychology and Social Work Clinic (740) 593-0902
Campus Care (Student Health Center) (740) 593-1660

Support

 
Office of the Dean of Students (740) 593-1800 
Office of Student Accessibility Services (740) 593-1610 
Survivor Advocacy Program (740) 597-7233 
Allen Student Advising Center (740) 566-8888 
Athens County Crisis Hotline (740) 593-3344
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK

Important Numbers to Have

 
Emergency 911
Ohio University Police Department (740) 593-1911 
Athens Police Department (740) 593-6606

Disruptive Students 

Recognize

WHAT IS DISRUPTIVE BEHAVIOR? 

Behavior that interferes with other students, faculty or staff and their access to an appropriate educational or work environment is considered disruptive.

WHAT ARE SOME EXAMPLES OF DISRUPTIVE BEHAVIOR? 
  • Disruptive or dangerous 
  • Verbal or physical threats 
  • Active threats of suicide or homicide and resisting help
  • Yelling or screaming 
  • Persistent and unreasonable demands for time and attention 
  • Words or actions that have the effect of intimidating or harassing another 
  • Words or actions that cause another to fear for their personal safety 
  • Threats of physical assault 

Respond

HOW SHOULD I DEAL WITH A DISRUPTIVE PERSON? 

Disruptive behavior must not be ignored. Some behavior should be reported to the police immediately. Call the police anytime someone threatens violence or uses words or actions that cause another to fear for their safety. For situations that are not immediately threatening, remain calm. Remind yourself that it is not about you; it is about the situation. Tell the individual that such behavior is inappropriate. Inform the individual that there are consequences for failing to improve the disruptive behavior. Many disruptive situations involve anger. Recognize that the period of peak anger usually lasts 20 to 30 seconds. Although this may seem like an eternity in the throes of the situation, often it is best to “wait it out” before progressing. 

Documentation 

Disruptive behavior should be documented. Write a factual, detailed account of what occurred. Use concrete terms. Share the documentation appropriately with the Office of the Dean of Students and your immediate supervisor or department head. 

The Dos 

  • Listen through the anger. Use active listening. 
  • Acknowledge the feelings of the individual. 
  • Allow the person to vent and tell you what is upsetting them. 
  • Set limits. Explain clearly and directly what behaviors are acceptable “I will be willing to speak with you as soon as you lower your voice.” 
  • Be firm, steady, consistent, and honest. 
  • Focus on what you can do to help resolve the situation. 
  • Make personal referrals. Give a name of an individual when possible, and call ahead to brief the person. 
  • Report to Ohio University Police or the Office of the Dean of Students as appropriate.

The Don'ts 

  • Don’t interrupt, particularly during the first 20 to 30 seconds of peak anger. 
  • Don’t minimize the situation. 
  • Don’t get into an argument or shouting match. 
  • Don’t blame, ridicule, or use sarcasm. 
  • Don’t touch. 
  • Don’t ignore disruptive behavior. 
IF YOU FEEL THREATENED OR IN DANGER, CALL 911!

 

Distressed Students 

Recognize

WHAT IS MY ROLE? 

As a staff or faculty member, you are in a good position to identify someone who may be emotionally distressed. While some of this is expected, especially during stressful times of the year, you may notice someone acting in a way that is inconsistent with your normal experience with that person. You may be able to be a resource in times of trouble. Your expression of interest and concern may be critical factors in helping the student. You should also be able to alert the university so that an appropriate intervention can be made. 

WHAT ARE SOME EXAMPLES OF DISTRESSED BEHAVIOR? 
  • Troubled or confused 
  • Very sad, anxious, or irritable 
  • Lacks motivation 
  • Bizarre behavior 
  • Lacks concentration
POSSIBLE SIGNS OF DISTRESS 
  • Marked change in academic performance or behavior 
  • Excessive absence or tardiness 
  • Trouble eating and/or sleeping 
  • Disruptive behavior 
  • Disproportionate emotional response to the situation 
  • Depressed or lethargic mood 
  • Agitated or very rapid speech 
  • Marked change in personal hygiene 
  • Excessive confusion 
  • Dramatic weight loss or gain 
  • Dependency (individual hangs around or makes excessive appointments to see you)  
  • Strange or bizarre behavior indicating loss of contact with reality 
  • Feelings of helplessness or hopelessness 
  • Verbal or written references to suicide 
  • Verbal or written references to homicide or assaultive behavior 
  • Isolation from friends, family, or classmates
  • Gives away prized possessions 

The Dos 

  • Speak with the student privately. 
  • Let them know you are concerned about their welfare. 
  • Express your concern in behavioral, non-judgmental terms. 
  • Tell them you are willing to help. 
  • Listen carefully to what they are troubled about. 
  • Help them explore options. 
  • Suggest resources. 
  • Make referrals to the appropriate campus department. 
  • Point out that help is available and seeking such help is a sign of strength and courage, rather than weakness or failure. 

The Don'ts 

  • Don't promise confidentiality. 
  • Don't judge or criticize. 
  • Don’t ignore the unusual behavior. 
  • Don't make the problem your own. 
  • Don't involve yourself beyond the limits of your time or skill. 

Referrals and Resources 

Student Review and Consultation Committee

WHAT IS THE SRCC? 

The SRCC serves as an advisory and consultative board to help the Dean of Students respond rapidly to an expressed concern about a student or to critical or emergency situations involving students. It also serves as conduit to other helpful university and community resources. An SRCC referral can be made in person, online or with a telephone call to the Office of the Dean of Students. 

Ohio University is committed to maintaining a safe environment in which students can pursue their academic and personal goals. If a student’s behavior causes concern, potentially endangers their own welfare or that of others in the community, the Student Review and Consultation Committee (SRCC) may intervene as a safeguard for everyone involved.

Making Referrals at Ohio University 

IF STUDENT IS IN CRISIS (AT RISK OF HARM TO SELF OR OTHERS): 

  • Call Ohio University Police: 740-593-1911 

IF THE STUDENT IS NOT AT RISK OF HARM TO SELF OR OTHERS, BUT YOU WOULD LIKE TO MAKE A REFERRAL TO COUNSELING AND PSYCHOLOGICAL SERVICES: 

  • Contact Counseling and Psychological Services at 740-593-1616 
  • Suggest in caring manner that they may benefit from a meeting with a counselor at Counseling and Psychological Services 
  • Counseling does not impact or influence academic records 
  • Counseling is confidential 
  • Drop in hours are available Monday through Friday. No appointment needed. Visit ohio.edu/counseling for times, locations, and services available.
TO MAKE A REFERRAL TO THE SRCC: 
FOR MORE INFORMATION: 

For more information on the SRCC, to make a referral, or to request a presentation to your department or area, please visit the Student Review and Consultation Committee (SRCC) page.

PDF Guide to Assisting Students in Distress

View or download this guide in PDF form: Ohio University Guide to Assist Students in Distress [PDF]

 

**Adapted from materials from the University of Colorado at Boulder, Penn State University, and Ohio State University