Because of their regular contact with students, faculty and staff are often among the first to notice that a student is having personal problems. While you are not expected to take on the role of counselor, you may be well positioned to connect a student to available help.
Potential Warning Signs of an Alcohol or Other Drug Problem
- Deterioration in work/academic performance, including being late to class and with assignments, absences or requests for extensions.
- Recurring substance-related legal problems, including trouble with campus authorities.
- Continued use despite ongoing interpersonal problems that are caused or worsened by drinking.
- Mood changes such as temper flare-ups, irritability and defensiveness.
- Physical or mental indicators such as memory lapses, lack of personal hygiene, bloodshot eyes, lack of coordination or slurred speech.
- Disclosure, by a student, that there might be a drinking or drug problem.
- Multiple signs and a pattern (versus a single episode) make it more likely that there is a significant problem.
How to Help
Communicating with the student is the first step. Here are some tips:
- Consult with a professional from counseling services for guidelines on how to intervene.
- Talk to the person privately when neither of you are rushed.
Express your care and concern: "I'm concerned about you."
Describe in specific, nonjudgmental terms the behaviors or signs that concern you: "I'm concerned about you because I've noticed you haven't been to class in two weeks, and when you are here, you appear not to be focused."
Make a referral for help: "Many students find that talking with a professional is helpful." Counseling Services offers alcohol assessment and counseling services, or you can also suggest that a student examines their use through resources including the online assessment eCheck-up-to-go or BASICS sessions offered through CASE.
Follow-up to see how things are going.