Last week's post about the sleepy undergrad inspired some comments that suggested (with varying levels of vehemence) that the professor involved should intervene in some way and facilitate medical treatment of a possibly serious condition. [In fact, based on additional information, I can say with some certainty that the student was just tired after a long night with little sleep.]
In any case, like many of you, every year/term I receive information from my university about how to recognize warning signs of a troubled student; for example, a student suffering from depression, or a potentially dangerous student. There is information about counseling centers and other resources to help students with mental and physical problems.
Although these e-mails and brochures contain a lot of information, of course they can't cover every possible situations. Sometimes, you just have to make a guess as to whether there is a problem, and if so, whether it is a severe one and whether you can/should do anything about it.
I have colleagues who have walked with a student to the health center when the student was in obvious need of immediate attention for a mental or physical problem and was willing to seek treatment. Of course it's harder to know what to do in more ambiguous situations, or in cases in which the student denies a problem, or is even upset or belligerent at the suggestion of a problem.
Consider the case I described on Friday: an undergraduate fell asleep during a meeting in a professor's office, while the professor was explaining something to the student about the student's research project. The professor asked the student a few questions to see if there was a problem (fainting? illness? etc.); the student said everything was fine, s/he wasn't ill.
Clearly some commenters felt that the professor should have done more. Would you have done more? If the student said "I'm fine", would you drop the subject or would you pursue it?
In the scenario relevant to this poll, imagine a student who is not obviously ill or injured. They fall asleep at an unexpected time, and then claim to be fine. End of discussion or just the beginning?
2 years ago