Supporting students in distress

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Supporting students in distress


Students may become distressed for any number of reasons including poor physical health, psychological issues including anxiety and depression, relationship problems, family pressures, home sickness, transition to university, trauma, loss, competing priorities, substance abuse, lack or loss of direction, and heavy academic workload.

The following guidelines may assist you in deciding what is the most appropriate response to support a student in distress:

Is the situation urgent?

Is there an immediate risk of suicide or self–harm? Or a risk the student may harm others?

If yes, call USC Security immediately (all hours) on Tel: +61 7 5430 1122 (or extension 1122).

Ensure your own safety. Seek support from colleagues.

Is the situation not urgent, but the student is clearly distressed?

If yes, ask the student if they will accept your help in referring them to the University Counselling Service. Contact Student Wellbeing:

  • Sippy Downs on Tel: +61 7 5430 1226 (or extension 1226)
  • SouthBank on Tel: +61 7 5409 8600
  • Gympie on Tel: +61 7 5456 5800
  • Fraser Coast on Tel: +61 7 4128 5200

Ensure you use language such as "this is an urgent matter relating to a student in distress", or escort the student to Student Wellbeing at your campus.

If the student will not accept your help, encourage the student to seek help themselves from Student Wellbeing, their doctor, a mental health professional, or family.

If the student is not obviously distressed, but you still have concerns they may be experiencing problems or not coping in some area of their life...

Indicators could include:

  • being overly nervous or teary
  • appearing sad or withdrawn
  • a deteriorating standard of appearance or personal hygiene
  • a noticeable weight gain or loss
  • repeatedly requesting extensions
  • procrastination
  • worsening academic performance

Encourage the student to make an appointment to see a counsellor at Student Wellbeing. If appropriate, let them make the appointment from your office.


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