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As an elementary school educator, you are well-positioned to identify students who may be at risk for
emotional distress, approach them and their parents with concerns, and connect them to support if

Identifying At-Risk Students

When identifying students who may be in distress, look for significant changes in behavior and look for
behaviors that seem extreme. Trust your instincts. Below are some common warning signs of distress:

Behavioral Warning Signs

Irritability, agitation, anger
Verbal hostility, fighting, aggression
Refusal to listen or comply with rules and requests
Fidgeting, having difficulty concentrating, being easily distracted
Crying or having emotional outbursts
Withdrawal and isolation
Frequent physical complaints (like headaches and stomachaches)
Persistent/excessive fear of separating from parents/guardians or refusal to attend school
Changes in sleeping or eating patterns
Lack of energy and lack of interest in previously enjoyed activities
Nervous or easily startled
Repetitive play that re-enacts a traumatic event
Clinging to a teacher or classmate
Self-destructive behaviors, like picking at skin, chewing fingers, cutting
Uncharacteristic low self-esteem and negative self-talk
Expressing feelings of sadness, guilt, shame, or fear
Deceitfulness, theft, property destruction

Academic Appearance
Refusal to complete assignments Disheveled or worsening appearance,
Careless errors or impulsive choices on lack of cleanliness
assignments Gaining or losing a lot of weight
Decline in academic performance Appearing very tired
Extreme nervousness around
academics/excessive worry about getting
everything right
Forgetful of tasks and materials
Frequent absences from school

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Bringing Up Concerns
When you are concerned that a student is experiencing distress, it is important to bring up your concerns
in a way that facilitates discussion and minimizes defensiveness and prevents hurt feelings. The EASING
model is a strategy for effectively bringing up concerns.

E Check your EMOTIONS

A ASK for permission






Instead of... Try...

Check your EMOTIONS She has been disrespectful to Mia seems frustrated during
me on several occasions. some of our class activities.

ASK for permission Id like to tell you some things Now, would it be okay to talk
Ive been seeing about one or two more things
Im seeing, to help you get a
better picture?

Be SPECIFIC Mia feels insecure when she The other kids were talking about
hears about fun things other a movie they'd all seen that Mia
students do outside of class. hadn't. I thought she looked a bit
uncomfortable, and she got
upset at another student.

Use I STATEMENTS She's destructive to school Last week, I saw Mia writing on
property. the wall outside the gymnasium
with chalk, after we'd asked
students not to do that.

Keep it NEUTRAL Well, I have to tell you, Mia Ive noticed that Mia sometimes
has been acting up a lot in seems a little agitated in class.

Show GENUINE CURIOSITY So she's difficult at home, too. So how is what youre seeing at
home similar or different to what
Im seeing at school?

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Listening Actively
When you want to encourage another person to open up, avoid giving unsolicited advice, disagreeing,
and criticizing. These ineffective tactics are likely to make the other person defensive and, therefor,
prevent him or her from opening up.

Ineffective Tactics Negative Result
Giving Advice Turns conversation into an argument
Disagreeing Makes the person defensive
Criticizing Emphasizes your authority

Instead, use a combination of open-ended questions and reflecting statements.

Open-ended questions require more than yes or no answers.

Using Open-Ended Questions

Instead of... Try...

Did you enjoy working with Maggie? What did Maggie do to make you think she
didnt want to work with you?

Reflecting statements express what you think the other person is saying, thinking, or feeling. Using
reflective statements can help you correct any misconceptions you have, and shows the other person that
you are really listening.

Using Reflective Statements

Instead of... Try...

I think youre wrong about Maggie. She didnt Sounds uncomfortable, working with someone
mind working with you. you think doesn't want to work with you.

Connecting Students to Support

When you have a student whom you want to connect to support, its important to know the resources and
policies in place at your school, as these can vary. You may be encouraged to involve people like:

% Principal or vice principal

% Counselor, school psychologist, or school social worker
% Another experienced teacher
If you will be speaking with parents, remember that they are also an important part of the team when
determining how to best support a student. To do this:

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% Ask for their opinions when bringing up recommendations

% Bring your recommendations up as a question (What would you think about?)

Crisis Situations
If you think that a student might be in immediate danger, follow the protocol defined for your school. Be
sure to know your school policy. Although suicide rates among elementary-aged students are low, a threat
should always be taken seriously. Never leave a student alone if you are concerned about suicide.

Here are some risk factors that increase a childs risk of suicide and signs that a child may be considering

Risk Factors that Increase a Childs Risk of Suicide

A family history of suicidal behavior or mental health disorders
Exposure to suicide of family member, friends, or other significant people
A history of mental health disorders, especially mood disorders
A history of maltreatment, trauma, or neglect
Interpersonal family conflicts
A past suicide attempt
A history of persistent bullying and social rejection
A recent or serious loss, such as the death of a family member, friend, or pet; a divorce; a
family members loss of job or home
Lack of social support
Access to lethal means such as guns or knives
Cultural and/or religious beliefs that suicide is a noble resolution of personal dilemma

Warning Signs that a Child May be Considering Suicide

A comment or note that indicates a wish to die
Statements of hopelessness or language like I dont want to be here anymore or I just
want to disappear
Composition of artwork, peer play, or pretend play involving death, violence, and loss
Preoccupation with death
Seeking opportunities to play with or handle weapons
Risky or reckless behavior (jumping from high places, running into traffic)
Signs of self-inflicted injuries (cuts or burns)
Significant changes in behavior and extreme emotions/difficulty completing activities of
daily life
Increased absenteeism
Sharp decline in academic performance
Persistent physical complaints
Dramatic changes in sleeping and eating patterns
Withdrawal from family and friends

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National Resources

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline NASP Mental Health Resources

1-800-273-TALK (8255) A list of resources compiled by The National
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Association of School Psychologists regarding
provides immediate assistance to individuals in research, policy, and practice surrounding
suicidal crisis by connecting them to the nearest mental health and school-based mental health
available suicide prevention and mental health practices.
service provider through a toll-free telephone
number. MACMH Mental Health Fact Sheet
Fact Sheet (PDF)
A fact sheet created by the Minnesota
Association for Children's Mental Health that provides access to U.S. gives an overview of the most common mental
government mental health and mental health health issues experienced by adolescent and
problems information. pre-adolescent children. provides information from

government agencies on what bullying is, what
cyberbullying is, who is at risk, and how you can
prevent and respond to bullying.

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