Faculty and staff are in good positions to recognize students who are in distress and can support their efforts to cope. It is not uncommon for faculty and staff to recognize students’ needs and offer valuable assistance even when students have not initiated the contact.

The information here is designed to assist Ball State faculty and staff in the early identification of distressed students. This Web site contains helpful and practical tips about how to better assist students when they need emotional help as well as suggestions for making appropriate referrals.

In the event that an individual has threatened harm to self or others, or has become violent or uncontrollable, contact the University Police Department immediately by calling 911 from an on-campus telephone or 765-285-1111 from a non-campus telephone. The police will determine if the circumstances warrant the immediate or emergency detention of the individual at Ball Memorial Hospital.

Contact the Counseling Center for more information.

The consequences of distress are often played out in classrooms, offices, residence halls, and peer relationships. When dealing with major life stressors, it is also not unusual for students to engage in what may be considered to be self-defeating behavior. By expressing your concern, you may help students regain the emotional balance needed to cope with their stressors and get back on track.

Marked changes in academic performance or behavior:

  • Poor class performance and preparation
  • Excessive absences or tardiness
  • Repeated requests for special consideration
  • Unusual or changed pattern of interaction
  • Domination or withdrawal of participation
  • Excessive anxiety or fear
  • Unusual agitation, irritability, or explosiveness
  • Prolonged depression, tearfulness, or lack of energy
  • Implied or direct threats about hurting self or others

Unusual behavior or appearance:

  • Depressed or lethargic mood
  • Mood swings
  • Hyperactivity or rapid speech
  • Exaggerated emotional responses, anger, or crying
  • Change in personal hygiene or dress
  • Decline in health habits or evidence of hurting oneself
  • Visible cuts, scars, or wounds and/or attempts to conceal these
  • Unexplained injuries

Reference to suicide, homicide, or death:

  • Overt reference to suicide or wish to die
  • Previous suicide attempts
  • Expressed thoughts of helplessness or hopelessness
  • Isolation from family or friends
  • Submitted papers or journal entries expressing suicidal or homicidal ideation
  • Inappropriate references to death and dying
  • Threats of violence

Problems in social relationships:

  • Lack of friendships
  • Little or no interaction with others
  • Lack of family ties and support

Traumatic or stressful events:

  • Death of a loved one
  • Changes in close relationships (divorce, separation, breakup)
  • Serious illness

Alcohol and drug use:

  • Misuse of drugs and alcohol and/or high risk drinking behaviors
  • Alcohol and/or drug use to avoid or cope with depression
  • Hangover or after effects of misuse


Be willing to talk with the student. Try to find an appropriate time and place where you can both talk privately and neither feels rushed or preoccupied. Give the student your full attention. It is possible that your willingness to talk will establish an atmosphere to make a referral or work through a problem.


Be willing to listen to the student’s concerns in a sensitive way. If you have initiated the contact, express your concerns in nonjudgmental terms.

Maintain/respect your limitations

Be aware of and maintain clear and consistent boundaries and expectations. Maintain a professional relationship with the student and be consistent in academic expectations. Know your limitations. When you feel you have helped as much as you can, seek another option, such as referral.

Give hope

It is important to help students understand the options before them and that things will not always seem hopeless. Suggest resources such as family, friends, and professionals on campus. Avoid making promises you cannot keep.


Take all suicidal and homicidal expressions seriously. A student whose behavior has become threatening, violent, or too disruptive may need a different kind of intervention. Please consult with Counseling Center staff or the University Police Department if you have any doubts about the appropriateness of an intervention.

Behavioral Intervention Team

Refer a student using the link below or call 765-285-1545 for assistance.

Refer a Student

Counseling Center

Call 765-285-1736 or visit the center (Lucina Hall, Room 320) to discuss the referral you are making. Students may come to the center on their own, or you may accompany the student.

Health Center

Call 765-285-8431 or visit the Health Center. Students are seen on a first-come, first-served basis.

Housing and Residence Life

Call 765-285-8000 or contact individual hall directors for guidance and support involving students in residence halls or apartments.

Office of Victim Services

Call 765-285-7844 to request assistance for victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, and other violent crimes.

University Police

Call 911, or from a non-campus telephone call 765-285-1111, to help an individual find medical care and/or counseling.

While faculty and staff may offer emotional support to students, they are encouraged to contact the Counseling Center day or night for professional assistance or referrals. Doing so may relieve the employee of liability and result in quicker access to campus resources.