Concerned about a Student?

Atkins Library

Faculty, staff, parents, and other community members are often among the first to become concerned about the well-being of a student.  There are a number of options to consider when deciding how to get the student the assistance the student needs.

If you have urgent concerns about the safety of a student or the community, call 911 or UNC Charlotte Police and Public Safety at 704‑687‑2200.  Police personnel can help arrange immediate assistance.

Students whose behavior is causing disruption or concern can be reported to the Office of the Dean of Students (704‑687‑0345).  The Office of the Dean of Students manages the NinerCare Network.  Information about the NinerCare network and how to report an incident can be found on the NinerCare website.

If a student is exhibiting psychological problems, CAPS staff are available to consult with you about how best to approach this student and encourage him or her to seek help.  Staff are on-call each business day to consult either by phone or in person.  Call CAPS at 704‑687‑0311 to make arrangements to speak to the counselor on-call.

Below are some guidelines to follow if you are concerned about the well-being of a student. There are also a number of helpful online resources available for persons who are concerned about the well-being of another. An excellent starting place is the "Mental Health Resources" section of this website.

Signs and symptoms of stress in students

  • Erratic behavior, including infrequent class attendance or failure to follow through with responsibilities.
  • Excessive procrastination.
  • Increasing dependence on a faculty or staff member, parent, or other person (by demanding excessive amounts of time and attention) or others.
  • Social isolation, withdrawal, lethargy.
  • Inability to focus on a specific topic in a conversation or activity.
  • Disorganized thinking and speech, feelings that are inappropriate to the situation or other evidence that a student is "out of touch with reality."
  • Expression of feelings of persecution, strong mistrust of others.
  • Disruptive, explosive, or disrespectful behavior.
  • Signs of excessive alcohol or drug use.
  • Gain or loss of significant amounts of weight.
  • Abrupt change in manner, style, or personal hygiene.  
Guidelines for Responding
  • Share your interest and concern openly and directly. 
  • Set clear limits about your role with the student. 
  • Maintain a student’s privacy. 
  • Do not promise confidentiality. Rather inform a student that you will use discretion if seeking outside assistance. You may want to look at our confidentiality statement, which all students read when they come in for their first meeting with a counselor. 
  • Help a student tell his or her story. Offer the opportunity to listen to whatever is on the student’s mind. 
  • Demonstrate an understanding of what the student discloses. 
  • Inquire how the student is attempting to respond to the problem. Develop response options together. 
  • Consider with the student the consequences of "doing more of the same." 
  • Consult with friends, colleagues, supervisors, deans, CAPS staff, or others if you feel you need additional perspectives, before or after approaching the student. 
  • Suggest a referral to the CAPS, the Student Health Center, the Office of the Dean of Students, or other community resource. 
  • Follow-up. Offer and be open to further contact.  
  • Consult with CAPS staff by phone or in person to explore ideas about how to respond or other options for assistance.
  • Recognize that a referral to another resource is sometimes necessary, even if approaching the student with your concerns has an immediate impact on his or her behavior or performance in your class.  
Consider a referral when
  • The problems or requests made are beyond your level of competence.  
  • The boundaries of your role make it unwise to work with this student on the issues. 
  • A student expresses a preference (directly or indirectly) to speak with someone else about their concerns. 
  • After some time and effort, you feel like you are not making progress in helping this student. 
Referral Guidelines
  • It is generally more helpful to refer to a particular office or agency than to a specific person.  You might recommend a person about whom you feel comfortable, but that person may not be the most available at the time he or she is needed. 
  • Consider helping the student make an appointment, perhaps by walking with the student to the office where the referral is being made or letting the student call from your office. 
  • After a referral, let the student volunteer information they want to share. It may not be necessary for you to have details of a student’s interaction with another agency. In fact, at times the student may wish to stop talking to you about the problem altogether. Communicate continued concern and openness to help. 
  • Once a referral is made, communication between the student and the referral agency is often confidential. You may be curious and feel unfinished in your work with the student, but you may have to let it be that way as the student begins to work with someone else. 
  • There are few "quick fixes."  Behaviors, attitudes, and feelings take time to change, and a student may show slow progress or, for a while, none at all. Trust the process and, again, communicate your continued concern and availability.