How to Help Students of Concern

Recognizing Behaviors of Concern

Academic and Student Employment Indicators

  • Repeated absences from class or campus employment
  • Repeated missed assignments, exams, or appointments
  • Significant deterioration in the quality or quantity of work
  • Extreme disorganization or erratic performance
  • Patterns of extreme perfectionism or anxiety
  • Preoccupation with violence, death, isolation, despair or depression in written or artistic work
  • Continual seeking of special provisions
  • Sending frequent, lengthy, “ranting” or threatening emails to instructor

Behavioral Indicators

  • Direct statements indicating distress, despair, family problems, or loss
  • Angry or hostile outbursts, yelling or threatening comments
  • More withdrawn or animated than usual
  • Expressions of hopelessness or worthlessness; crying or tearfulness
  • Expressions of severe anxiety or irritability
  • Isolating self in residence hall room or apartment
  • Excessively demanding or dependent behavior

Physical Indicators

  • Deterioration in physical appearance or personal hygiene
  • Excessive fatigue or repeatedly falling asleep in class
  • Dramatic change in energy level, in either direction
  • Noticeable changes in weight or visible bingeing and purging
  • Noticeable physical injuries (cuts, bruises, burns, etc.)
  • Disorganized, slurred or rapid speech; confusion
  • Shakiness, tremors, fidgeting or pacing
  • Frequent or chronic illness
  • Chronic substance abuse

How To Help



The student poses an imminent risk to themselves or others; the student’s behavior is threatening, dangerous or reckless. Call 911 or
WashU Police at
The student is distressed, but you are uncertain of how serious it is; the student’s behavior has left you concerned or uneasy. File a WashU Cares Report; consult with WashU Cares or The Habif Health and Wellness Center.For medical campus students, contact WUSM Health Services.
The student is having significant academic or personal issues and could use additional support, but you are not concerned for the student’s immediate well-being. Refer to the appropriate campus resource (listed below).

Step 1: Determine if the situation is an emergency.

A situation is an emergency if the student:

  • Poses physical or verbal threats directed at self, others, or property
  • Is disconnected from reality or exhibiting psychosis
  • Displays unmitigated disruptive behavior

If you are in an emergency situation, please call the Washington University Police Department at 314-935-5555.

Step 2: If the situation is not an emergency, CONSULT.

Consult with one or more of the resources listed on this website, including WashU Cares, Habif Center, your faculty chair or the administrator in your school who works with student issues (if you are faculty), your supervisor (if you are staff), or your RA or other trusted adviser (if you are a student).


If you feel safe meeting with the student, express your concern and inquire about their well-being. You are not acting as a therapist or counselor. Your role is to listen, support and ask pertinent questions.

  • Express concern in a nonjudgmental way (ex: “I’m worried, because you’ve seemed really down lately”).
  • Listen attentively to the student’s response. Maintain eye contact and pay attention to the student’s nonverbal communication.
  • If you are concerned that a student is suicidal, ask direct questions (ex: “Are you thinking about killing yourself?”)
  • Avoid trying to “fix” the student’s problems or brainstorming solutions. Instead, when you respond, try to reflect back what you hear the student saying (ex: “It sounds like you’re feeling really overwhelmed right now.”)

Step 4: REFER

Identify an appropriate resource and explain the limitations of your knowledge and experience. Be clear that your referral does not mean that you think something is “wrong” with the student or that you are not interested in them.

Step 5: REPORT

Complete a WashU Cares report. Documenting your concern in a timely manner can help with early intervention. WashU Cares staff may reach out to you for follow-up.

Please know that WashU Cares makes every effort to protect students’ privacy, so we are often unable to provide detailed information about how the situation was resolved.

Danforth Campus Resources

Medical Campus Resources

Academic Resources



  • Arts & Sciences
    Andy Wiegert, Director of Student Affairs II
  • Brown School
    Ragini Maddipati, Assistant Dean of Student Affairs
  • McKelvey School of Engineering
    Holly Stanwich, Director of Gradudate Student Affairs
  • Olin School of Business
    For MBA Students: Rachel Donnell, Associate Director Advising/Student Services/Student Services
    For SMP Students: Nikki Cornwell, Associate Director Advising/Student Services
  • Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts
    Joseph Fitzpatrick, Associate Dean of Students
  • School of Law
    Elizabeth WalshAssociate Dean for Student Services