Creating a Culture of Care

A guide to helping students connect to resources and to navigate potential challenges at Gardner-Webb University.

Students in Distress: Quick Reference

The following are indicators that a student is in distress. As a reminder, the presence of one of the following indicators, alone, does NOT necessarily mean that the student is experiencing severe distress. The more indicators you notice, the more likely it is that the student needs help.

Behavioral & Emotional Indicators

  • Statements indicating distress, family problems, or loss
  • Angry or hostile outbursts
  • More withdrawn or animated than usual
  • Expressions of hopelessness, worthlessness, crying, or tearfulness
  • Expressions of severe anxiety or irritability
  • Excessively demanding or dependent behavior
  • Shakiness, fidgeting, or pacing

Physical Indicators

  • Deterioration in physical appearance or personal hygiene
  • Excessive fatigue or falling asleep in class repeatedly
  • Visible changes in weight
  • Statements about changes in appetite or sleep
  • Noticeable cuts, burns, or bruises
  • Frequent chronic illness
  • Disorganized speech, rapid or slurred speech, or confusion
  • Coming to class bleary-eyed or smelling of alcohol

Safety Risk Indicators

  • Written or verbal statements that mention despair, suicide, death
  • Vague statements such as “I’m going away for a long time”
  • Severe hopelessness, depression, isolation, and withdrawal

Other Factors

  • A hunch or gut feeling that something is wrong
  • Concern about a student by his/her peers

This is an Emergency if the Student:

  • Directs physical or verbal aggression at self, others, animals or property.
  • Is unresponsive to the external environment.
  • Is incoherent or passed out.
  • Is disconnected from reality/exhibiting psychosis.
  • Displays unmitigated disruptive behavior.
  • Situation feels threatening or dangerous to you.

When do you act?

Any one serious sign or a cluster of smaller signs indicates a need to take action.

How to respond?

  • If you have direct rapport with student; Speak to them showing concern for specific behaviors.
  • If you do NOT have rapport; Consult with an appropriate person about what to do next. See below.

Action #1: Consulting

  • Counseling Center Staff
    • After Hours Counselor On-Call (704) 406-2599
  • General Counseling Email: [email protected]
  • Dean of Students, (704) 406-2081
  • Residence Life on Call, (704) 406-4300
  • University Police (704) 406-4444

Action #2: If You are Approaching the Student, Remember to…

  • Simply express concern, listen, and offer support.
  • Provide resource information to the student.
  • Meet privately with student.
  • Point out specific signs you have observed.

Action #3: If you decide to refer…

  • Explain limitations of your knowledge and experience.
  • Be clear that your referral does not mean you think something is “wrong” with them.
  • State you can still be a part of the student’s support network as you are able.
  • Provide name, number, and office location of referral.
  • Walk student to referral location when possible.

Unless the student is suicidal or may be a danger to others, the ultimate decision to access resources is the student’s. If the student says “I’ll think about it,” when you offer referral information, it is okay. Let the student know you are interested in hearing how they are doing.

Threat Assessment Behavior Indicators

Examples of Warning Signs to Look For

  • Attempts to harm or kill self
  • Unexplained increases in absenteeism
  • Decreased performance in work or academics
  • Resistance to change or reasonable limits
  • Over-reaction to changes in policies/procedures
  • Extreme or sudden changes in behaviors
  • Numerous conflicts with others
  • Difficulty learning from past behaviors or experiences
  • Displays paranoia or distrust
  • Alienates others or isolates self from others
  • Makes statements indicating approval of use of violence to resolve a problem
  • Identifies with or idolizes persons who have engaged in violence toward others.

Certain events can also trigger violent reactions. These could be…

  • Losses (such as):
    • Job/Income
    • Status
    • Significant other/relationship
  • Perceived rejection or injustice
  • Ostracized by others
  • Health problems (e.g., head injuries)

Keep in mind that such precipitating events may be real, perceived, or anticipated by the subject of concern and is relative to them.

Remember, these are examples of behaviors and circumstances that may serve as indicators of developing concerns. These examples are meant to help you identify potential concerns during your daily interactions with others. These examples are NOT all-inclusive and this information is not intended to be used as a checklist.

Student Life and Student Success Resource and Phone List

Academic Concerns

Dr. Ryan Erck
Executive Director for Student Success
(704) 406-3980 | [email protected]

To report attendance, poor performance or any other retention concern complete an Insight CARE report.

To complete a CARE report:

  1. Log in to WebbConnect
  2. Click on the “Insight for Faculty/Staff” tab
  3. Click “Create a new CARE report”
  4. Select reason for reporting
  5. Select TUG or DCP course
  6. Search student of concern’s name and select
  7. Write detailed incident description in the description box
  8. Select any additional areas of concern
  9. Submit the report

ADA Accommodations

NOEL Center for Disability Resources
(704) 406-4270 | [email protected]

The Noel Center provides reasonable accommodations and services to eligible students with disabilities. An Accessibility Advisor is also available to work with students on individual goals.

Student Mental Health Concerns

Stephanie Allen
Director of Counseling Services
(704) 406-2177 | [email protected]

Megan Peek
(704) 406-4103 | [email protected]

After Hours Counselor on-call
(704) 406-2599

Disruptive or Threatening Behavior/Language/Writing

University Police (704) 406-4444

Examples of disruptive or threatening behavior concerns: disturbing, interfering with, or preventing normal student and work functions or activities; yelling; using profanity, waving arms or fists; verbally abusing others; and refusing reasonable requests for identification.

Health Concerns

Atrium Health Student Health Clinic
(980) 487-2390

Lesley Villarose
VP for Student Development and Dean of Students
(704) 406-2081 | [email protected]

Examples of health concerns: hospitalizations, sick visits and questions about locating providers

Title IX Concerns

Lesley Villarose
VP for Student Development and Dean of Students
Interim Title IX Coordinator and ADA Coordinator

(704) 406-2081 | [email protected]

Please see the Sexual Misconduct and Sexual Harassment policy for more information.

Confused about who to call or report to? Contact Residence Life on-call (704) 406-4300