Working with Distressed Individuals

If someone is an immediate threat to self, others, or property it should be considered an emergency and directed to the UTC Police Department at 423-425-HELP/4357 or 911 (from on-campus phone).

Distressed Student Behavior usually causes us to feel concerned or worried and may fall into a disturbing category. Students exhibiting distressed behavior may have a negative impact on their academic performance, other students, or the instructor's ability to teach. Furthermore, the distressed behavior may be symptomatic of a student’s ability to manage personal adjustments or emotional difficulties.

  • Distressed Individuals

    • May be irritable, sad, unduly anxious, withdrawn, confused, lacking motivation or concentration, seeking constant attention, or demonstrating bizarre, erratic or concerning behaviors including references to self-harm.

    • Signs to help identify a distressed student:

      • The once organized, timely, and cooperative student does not seem to be that way now.

      • The student may be unusually quiet or absent.

      • The student’s demeanor or appearance may change.

      • The student may be angry, belligerentdisorganized, or even become socially isolated.

      • The student may have sudden crying spells or may seem to be distracted in class.

      • The student may be quietly distressed—possibly depressed or forlorn. These individuals may take longer to notice than angry, belligerent, or disorganized students.

      • The student may display evidence of substance abuse.

      • The student may be the victim of bullying or rejection or even display an unusual lack of empathy for others.


  • If an individual exhibits behavior that poses immediate danger to him/herself, is a risk to others, or makes threats of violence, immediately contact 911 or the University Police Department at 423-425-HELP. Other behavioral or psychological concerns may be addressed to the Student CARE Team.

  • It may help to begin by speaking to the student, whether it is a face-to-face conversation or email, to let them know you are concerned. Inform them know that you will be reaching out to Student Outreach & Support (SOS) and someone from that office will be following up with them.

  • Share your concern with SOS. If you are unsure of how to proceed or do not feel comfortable speaking directly to the student, you should consult with a staff member in SOS.

    • More information about SOS services may be found here.

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) allows university faculty and staff to share observations about student behavior, student statements, and concerns about students with UTC personnel who have responsibility for the welfare of students, including law enforcement. FERPA and other privacy regulations allow UTC staff to release information to police, parents, or others whose knowledge of the information is necessary to protect the safety and health of the student or others. Consideration for student privacy should be given before information is shared with people other than those suggested above. Questions about when such disclosure is appropriate can be answered by the campus general counsel.