2110 STUDENT RESOURCE BUILDING UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA SANTA BARBARA, CA 93106-7170 Phone: 805-893-4758 Fax: 805-893-3656

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Recognizing Signs & Symptoms of Distress

In addition to being in tune to your student’s mental health condition, encourage your student to be aware of his or her peers’ behavior. The following are signs that a student could be in distress and need to see a counselor:

  • behavioral or emotional change; someone who doesn't seem like him or herself
  • withdrawal from others and/or favorite activities; excessive crying
  • change in hygiene or appearance; not taking care of oneself
  • decline in academic performance
  • alcohol or drug abuse, especially a sudden or dramatic increase in use
  • excessive or inappropriate anger
  • anxiety, panic, or fear
  • bizarre thoughts or behavior (e.g. out of touch with reality, talking about suicide)
  • others feel uncomfortable or worried about them
  • decline in functioning (e.g. not attending class, not sleeping or sleeping too much)
  • wanting to harm self or others
  • overwhelming sense of apathy, indifferent to life
  • trouble concentrating or following through with plans
  • very low energy; feeling worthless and/or hopeless

If you are concerned about a distressed student, please call Angela Andrade, coordinator of student mental health services, at (805)893-8920. She is available Monday through Friday during working hours. In an emergency situation, you should always call 911.

Identifying Students In Distress

UCSB has had an early warning program in place for several years now whose goal is to help us identify and get help for students exhibiting signs of psychological distress. The program consists of outreach and training for staff and faculty to enable them to identify and respond to distressed students. An essential component of the program is a booklet titled “Responding to Distressed Students” that is now in its second edition and has been distributed to every office and department on campus in hard copy form and to every faculty and staff member via a website (www.sa.ucsb.edu/distressedstudentsguide). 

The guide is used as part of the foundation for the training and provides information on identification of various symptoms of distress, a protocol for immediate response, and descriptions of campus resources that can be easily accessed. These resources range from psychologists, psychiatrists, and counselors to campus police, judicial affairs officers, and other administrators, like our coordinators of student mental health services and associate dean for Student Wellness, who regularly work with distressed students. In essence, we have created a safety net that alerts key campus staff who quickly mobilize and develop an appropriate service response for students in psychological distress. This early response program works on behalf of both the distressed student and the campus community, hopefully identifying students early and getting them help before a crisis develops.