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Idaho State University

Concerned about a student?

What potential signs of distress should I be aware of?

Students can experience emotional distress for a variety of reasons. Many students are able to get through stressful times without significant impact on their emotional or behavioral functioning. Some students, however, have more difficulty coping with distressing situations and/or struggle with mental illness. In such cases, you may see some of the following symptoms:

Academic concerns such as:

  • Uncharacteristically poor work
  • Dropping grades
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Excessive absences

Interpersonal concerns such as:

  • Difficulty getting along with others
  • Isolation from family and friends
  • Extreme defensiveness

Behavioral concerns such as:

  • Changes in personal hygiene
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability, agitation, or restlessness
  • Inappropriate responses and/or disjointed thoughts
  • Intense, dramatic, or volatile emotion
  • Loss of interest in pleasurable activities
  • Physical harm to self
  • Verbal or written references to distress, including suicidal/homicidal thoughts or plans

You likely know your child better than almost anyone else. If you notice behavior that is unusual for him or her, and if you feel concerned about these changes, trust your instincts. Talk openly and supportively with your child and refer them to seek counseling.

How do I talk to my child if I’m concerned?

Talk to your child privately. Share your observations with statements such as, “I’ve noticed that you’re spending more time alone” or “You’ve seemed sad lately.” Express your concerns with statements such as, “I’m concerned that you might be struggling and could use some help.” Familiarize yourself with the services available on campus and share this information with your child. Normalize help-seeking as a healthy behavior and encourage them to do so.

If you think their life or the lives of other people are at risk, don't delay. Call 911 immediately.

If you're concerns aren't to that level but you're still concerned, reach out to Kris Clarkson in ISU's Office of Student Affairs (208-282-2794) and share your concerns. Student Affairs can help get students connected to the resources on campus that are best able to help with their concerns.

What services are offered by CATS?

Counseling and Testing Service (CATS) offers free and confidential individual, couple, and group counseling to all students who are currently enrolled in classes.  Our services are short-term and goal-oriented and our staff work with students on a wide variety of issues and concerns. We also offer initial consultation and limited crisis intervention services during regular business hours.

In addition, CATS also operates the Stress Management and Biofeedback Center that can also help with a variety of concerns. Common goals of biofeedback training include, improved awareness of the mind and body, promoted relaxation in response to stress, decreased tension, pain, or emotional dysregulation, improved sleep and overall health, and reduced anxiety, stress, or depression.

To learn more, visit our website:

I would like to know how my child is doing. Can I call his/her counselor?

We know you care about your child’s well-being. It is natural to want to know how they’re doing. Please rest assured that our staff is highly trained and dedicated to providing quality care to your child. But your adult child has a legal right to privacy and confidentiality that we must respect. As a result, we cannot give you information about your child without your child’s written permission, except under emergency circumstances.

If your child is a minor (under 18 years of age), we encourage you to extend this expectation of privacy and confidentiality to your child and allow them to engage in counseling on their own. Older teens often utilize counseling to discuss issues that they may not feel comfortable sharing with family. Talking to a counselor can help them work through struggles and move forward in healthy ways.