At one time or another, everyone feels depressed or upset. However, there are three levels of distress which, when present over a period of time, suggest that the problems are more than the ‘normal’ reactions to life stressors.


Although not disruptive to others in classroom or elsewhere, these behaviors in students may indicate that something is wrong and that help may be needed:

  • Serious grade problems.
  • Unaccountable change from good to poor performance.
  • Change from frequent attendance to excessive absences.
  • Change in pattern of interaction.
  • Marked change in mood, motor activity or speech.
  • Marked change in physical appearance.


These behaviors in students may indicate significant emotional distress or a reluctance or inability to acknowledge a need for personal help:

  • Repeated request for special consideration.
  • New or regularly occurring behavior which pushes the limits and may interfere with class management or be disruptive to others.
  • Unusual or exaggerated emotional response.


These behaviors may show, in many cases, the student is in crisis and needs emergency care:

  • Highly disruptive behavior (hostility, aggression, etc.).
  • Inability to communicate clearly (disjointed thoughts).
  • Loss of contact with reality (seeing/hearing things that are not there, beliefs or actions at odds with reality).
  • Overt suicidal thoughts
  • Homicidal threats.
  • Individuals deficient in skills that regulate emotion, cognition, self, behavior and relationships.

What You Can Do

Responses to Distress/ Disturbance

  • Calmly talk to the student in private when you both have time.
  • Express your concern in non-judgmental terms.
  • Listen to the student and repeat the gist of what the student is saying.
  • Clarify the costs and benefits of each option for handling the problem from the student’s point of view.
  • Respect the student’s value system.
  • Ask if the student is considering suicide.
  • Make appropriate referrals if necessary. (BIT, OCS, CAPS, ETC)
  • Make sure the student understands what action is necessary.

Responses to Dysregulation

  • Stay calm.
  • Call emergency referrals.

Emergency Lines-Communication Center Hours of Operation 24 hours each day, 7 days per week (202) 651-5555 (voice/videophone) Contact here (email) (202) 651-5444 (tty)

Contact Us

Behavior Intervention Team

Ely Center 103

(202) 510-9594

(202) 651-5144

(202) 651-5651

9:00 am-5:00 pm
9:00 am-5:00 pm
9:00 am-5:00 pm
9:00 am-5:00 pm
9:00 am-5:00 pm

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