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March 17, 2016

MENTAL HEALTH: What can faculty, staff do?

How can you tell if a student is struggling with an issue, and what you should do as a staff or faculty member?

The Student Affairs office’s “Guide to Working With Distressed Students” ( provides answers for many kinds of issues students may face.

Anxiety, for instance — Pitt students’ most common problem — may show up in a student’s life as “agitation, panic, avoidance, irrational fear of losing control, excessive worry, sleep disturbance or eating problems.”

The guide recommends that Pitt employees “[t]alk to the student in private and in a soothing manner. Remain calm. Try to help the student develop an action plan to address their immediate concerns” — and refer students to the Counseling Center by calling 412-648-7930 while the student is there, to set up an appointment.

Another common problem, depression, may manifest as “flat affect (inexpressive face), slow speech, sighing, difficulty concentrating, not attending class, expressions of hopelessness or worthlessness, agitation or irritability,” the guide says. It suggests that the best course of action is to “[d]irectly ask the students if they are feeling depressed or hopeless. Directly ask the students if they feel like hurting themselves” — and to call the Counseling Center.

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