Location: Bowdoin / Office of the Dean of Students / alcohol-and-drug / for-faculty-and-staff

Office of the Dean of Students

For Faculty and Staff

How to Help a Student in Distress

Students encounter many opportunities at Bowdoin – academic, social, and developmental. For many students, these opportunities lead to growth and success. However, for some students these opportunities can create stress and lead to risky behaviors such as dangerous drinking and drug use.

At Bowdoin, faculty and staff have close relationships with students. Faculty and staff are in a unique position to recognize when a student might be struggling with alcohol or drug use. Look at the tips below to help determine when a student may be in distress and if you suspect a student may be struggling, don’t hesitate to contact Counseling Services, Health Services, or the Dean’s Office.

Worried About a Student's Immediate Safety?

If you're worried that a student might harm themselves or others, stay with the student and immediately contact Security at x3500.

Tips That a Student May be Struggling

Academic Indicators:

  • Drop in quality of work
  • Missed assignments
  • Negative classroom performance
  • Frequent absences

Communication Indicators:

  • Direct statements indicating loneliness, hopelessness, anger or fear
  • Becoming more isolated or more animated than usual
  • Indication from a peer that they are concerned about the student

Physical Indicators:

  • Deterioration in appearance or hygiene
  • Change in weight
  • Physical indications of harm (cuts, bruises)
  • Appearing hung over in the classroom

Take Signs Seriously and Take Action

If you notice any of the signs above, it is important to trust your instincts and take action. Contact Counseling ServicesHealth Services, or the Dean’s Office. Talk through your concerns and get help figuring out a course of action.

If you decide to talk with the student, frame the conversation in a way that emphasizes your concern and caring. Use “I” statements like “I wanted to talk with you because I am concerned about your absences from class. You seen upset lately and I am concerned about you. Do you have anything you want to talk about?” If the student wants to talk, try not to give advice. Let the student articulate what they are struggling with and encourage the student to seek help from Counseling ServicesHealth Services, or the Dean’s Office.