For Friends, Roommates, Teachers & Advisors

Recognizing Signs of Struggle

Friends, roommates, teachers, and advisors are often the first to recognize a student’s emotional difficulties. Signs can include:

  • Anxiety: excessive worry, panic attacks, avoidance.
  • Depression: crying, hopelessness, low self-esteem, excessive guilt.
  • Missing classes; neglecting schoolwork, jobs, extracurricular activities.
  • Social isolation
  • Extreme moods
  • Changes in behavior or appearance.
  • Alcohol or drug problems.
  • Dangerous activities
  • Referring to death or suicide in conversation, jokes, writings, posts.

How You Can Help

When a student shows any of the signs listed above:

  • Take the signs seriously – don’t assume you are overreacting.
  • Ask to talk to the student – arrange for a private conversation.
  • Point out the specific signs you’ve noticed. Say you are concerned.
  • Listen closely. Don’t judge, give advice or try to cheer up the student.
  • If a struggling student is not seeing a professional, recommend CWC.
  • If the student raises objections, gently explain: counseling is not a sign of being weak or crazy, but rather a healthy response to problems.
  • If the student is not in crisis, let the student decide about counseling. Your words were not wasted. Sometimes students reject help at first but pursue counseling later.
  • Do not be sworn to secrecy if the student is in crisis. Say you need to inform someone to make sure they are safe.
  • If the situation is an emergency or crisis (i.e., immediate suicidal urges or other self-destructive behavior), immediately call CWC (212-774-0700), the Vice President for Student Affairs (212-774-0750), Residence Life (212-774-0740), or Campus Safety (212-517-0411).


CWC can consult with faculty, staff, and students who want to discuss concerns about a student. Call CWC to schedule a meeting with a clinician or come to drop-in hours (weekdays 3-4 p.m.). Please remember that information about student clients is confidential and will not be disclosed in consultations.