Concerned About a Student?

Living in a college community, there are likely to be times when you become concerned about someone else. Here are some guidelines when you are concerned about a student.

When to be concerned

Everyone experiences distress sometimes. Many people may experience one of the signs (below) at different times and are not necessarily in severe distress. However, when someone is experiencing several of these signs, or if they persist, then it may be indicative of more severe difficulties that warrant professional help.

  • Deterioration of physical appearance or personal hygiene
  • Excessive fatigue or sleep difficulties
  • Skipping class or absence from other activities
  • Difficulty completing schoolwork or other obligations
  • Avoidance of friends or uncharacteristic of social isolation
  • Marked decrease in concentration, motivation or energy
  • Visible increase or decrease in weight
  • Looking sad, worried or preoccupied
  • Irritability or temper outbursts
  • Direct statements about problems with family and friends
  • Excessive substance use
  • Statements of hopelessness or comments about death, self-harm or suicide

Half of Us

Award-winning program from JED & MTV featuring a library of free-for-use videos including PSAs, celebrities and students talking about their personal experiences with mental health and substance use. Half of Us helps young people feel less alone and encourages them to reach out for help.

It's Okay to Ask

When you are concerned about a peer, you might hesitate to inquire further about his/her well-being, because you worry that it’s an invasion of privacy, or that bringing it up will make the situation worse. However, if you are worried about someone, it is usually best to express genuine concern or interest. A peer can always decline to talk with you if they are uncomfortable. Most often, questions coming from a place of concern are experienced as caring and may be the opening a friend needs to talk about what is bothering them.

How to Help Students in Distress: A Guide for Tufts Faculty, Staff, and TAs 

How to Approach Someone

Choose a time and a place that is private. Ask your peer how she/he is doing using a caring tone and making eye contact. Share the things that you have noticed that have lead to your concern. If your peer is not interested in talking, let him/her know that you are available if they would like to talk another time. You can also remind your peer that there are many resources on campus if she/he wants help at any point.

When Someone Wants to Talk

The most important thing you can do is to listen. Just by being an open, interested and supportive friend, you are providing important assistance. You don’t need to be an expert or to give advice—sometimes just talking is enough to help someone feel relief. However, if there are more serious concerns or you feel your peer should seek professional help, encourage her/him to do so. Let your peer know that getting help is a sign of strength.

Don't Get Sworn To Secrecy

Avoid making blanket promises of confidentiality that might make it harder for you to share your concerns with someone else if needed. If your friend is at risk, it is important that you seek professional help right away and explain that you are doing so out of concern. A student’s safety must be the primary concern.

Take Care of Yourself

It is wonderful to be a kind and caring person, but it is important to take care of yourself as well. If you start to feel too burdened, overwhelmed or concerned about another student, it’s time to ask for professional help. If your peer will not agree to get help, call the Tufts Counseling and Mental Health Service and ask to speak to a counselor for consultation.

Talk to a Professional

The CMHS is open from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.  The telephone number is 617-627-3360.  When the office is closed a staff clinician is always available for emergencies.  Call the Tufts Police at 617-627-3030 and ask to speak to the counselor on-call.