How do you know if a student is distressed and needs help? What behaviors do people exhibit that may indicate violence? Although there is no sure way to know if a person may be distressed, turn violent or be in need of assistance, the links below may help you assist a student.
Our students typically lead lives that are filled with activity, accomplishment, and aspirations, and their difficulties can emerge in different arenas. Often, these very students face challenges that threaten their academic and social endeavors, and help is available to attend to these difficulties.
If you are a a friend concerned about a Biola student, or a parent, faculty or staff member, consultation with Biola's Counseling Center is available.
In addition, this information is provided to help you recognize the warning signs of a student that may be in sufficient distress that connection to professional support is warranted.
Indications of Depression
Depression is a psychological and a physical condition that may be caused or influenced by emotional, interpersonal, social, and/or physiological factors. There are a number of symptoms of depression, and the following list of indicators may help you assess whether to approach the student and encourage seeking professional help. Keep in mind, this list is not necessarily exhaustive, and students who are depressed may show some, but not all, of these symptoms.
* Ongoing feelings of sadness and worthlessness
* Missing class/work or becoming withdrawn from social activities
* Feelings or expressions of hopelessness
* Sleeping much more or less than usual
* Eating much more or less than usual
* Increased physical symptoms (fatigue, headaches, soreness)
* Irritable moods or swinging moods
* Impaired concentration
* Loss of motivation or decreased in personal interests
* Self-medication with drugs or alcohol
* Suicidal thoughts or behaviors
Suicide Risk Factors
Ongoing depression can lead to suicide. This includes when the student is starting to feel better. Often, suicide occurs when someone who had been severely depressed begins to improve somewhat, and it is important to remain vigilant to ensure that suicide is not being contemplated or planned. There are also some indicators that the risk of suicide is higher for an individual. These include
* Previous attempts of suicide
* Having a friend or family member that has committed suicide
* Making suicide threats or comments suggesting dying or no longer being "around"
* Pre-occupation with death
* Getting affairs in order, giving things away
High Risk for Suicide
While any student described by the above indicators is at risk for suicide, a student who has contemplated a plan for suicide is a particularly high risk for attempting to commit suicide. Planning includes
1. Having and Needing a Plan
2. Having the means to implement the plan (or knowing exactly how to access the means)
- Possession of a weapon (gun, knives)
- Access to a car (if plan involves crashing car)
- Possession of medications or drugs (if plan involves intentional overdose)
3. Having set a time and place to commit suicide.
4. Believing that suicide is the only solution or the only means of escape from the painful hopelessness.
If you are concerned about a Biola student with this level of risk, contact the Biola Counseling Center (if during regular business hours) at (562) 903-4800 and ask to speak to a counselor for consultation about a student who may be suicidal. After 5:00pm or on weekends and holidays, page the RD-on-call at ext. 0 (university operator), and your call will be returned within 10 minutes.
If you are in a situation in which a suicide gesture or attempt is imminent or maybe in process, call Campus Safety at x5111 for immediate assistance.
Unfortunately, there is no proven method of predicting when someone may become violent. It is important to keep this in mind when attempts are made to identify warning signs. It is particularly important to consider the context of such warning signs. For example, voice tone, level of familiarity with the person making troubling statements, and the presence of other warning signs should all be considered. Below are some indicators that warrant closer attention and, potentially, preventive intervention.
- Making threats of suicide or statements about hurting one’s self, directly or through hinting.
- Making threats of violence, directly or implied.
- Expressing fascination with firearms or asserting ownership of firearms
- Having a known history of violence or behavior obviously insensitive to others.
- Preoccupation with television, music and/or stories about violence
- Identification with criminal or terrorist individuals, acts and/or philosophy
- Making references to with other incidents of publicized violence
- Maintaining preoccupation with other incidents of publicized violence (collecting articles and photos, showing fascination with perpetrators of these events, etc).
- Intimidating others, acting with belligerence or defiance toward others, frequently becoming confrontational
- Crossing professional and personal boundaries (e.g., excessive phone calls or e-mails and, impromptu visits, giving gifts inappropriately)
- Being easily provoked, showing sudden or erratic agitation with others
- Blaming others for anything that goes wrong and a failure to acknowledge any sense of responsibility for disappointments or difficulties.
- Showing recent marked academic (or job) performance decline
- Demonstrating notable changes in personality, mood or behavior (or erratic mood changes)
- Giving away personal possessions.
- Showing notable decline in personal hygiene and personal appearance
- Abusing alcohol or other drugs, particularly marked increase in substance abuse
In addition, listed below are some situational contexts that would not be considered warning signs in and of themselves. However, knowledge of such contexts might influence the level of risk indicated by other warning signs. Also, knowledge of some of these contexts may call for more proactive efforts to increase support may very well prevent violence against one’s self or others.
- Anticipating severe consequences such as failing out of school or impending expulsion due to serious conduct code violations (especially if shame or embarrassment is heightened due to situational and/or cultural factors).
- Suffering a lack of support regarding a history of actual or perceived victimization related to social/cultural identities (discrimination, bullying, or other forms of oppression around race, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, physical characteristics, mental functioning, etc).
- Facing severe stressors in their personal life (e.g., financial, family or marital problems)
If you are concerned about a student exhibiting some of these signs and you would like to consult with BCC during regular business hours, please call 562-903-4800. After 5:00pm or on weekends and holidays, page the RD-on-call at ext. 0 (university operator), and your call will be returned within 10 minutes.
If your situation involves immediate danger, call Campus Safety at x5111 for immediate assistance.
(This page was adapted from material produced by the Violence Prevention and Response Program at the University of Washington: www.safecampus.washington.edu; and from the Duke University Counseling and Psychological Services site, http://caps.studentaffairs.duke.edu/reaching_out/warningdistress.html)