Mental Health Information for Parents

It can be challenging for any parent to watch his/her son or daughter go off to college, but this experience is often magnified if a parent has concerns about the mental health of his/her student. Mental health concerns and mental illness often arise or worsen during the college years for several reasons.  Students may be faced with increased stress, increased availability of drugs and alcohol, and decreased contact with family and social supports during a time when many students are most biologically prone to developing mental illness.  Fortunately, mental health concerns can be effectively treated using psychotherapy, medication and a combination of the two.

It is important for you, as a parent to know what to watch for and what to do if you are concerned about your son or daughter.  Establishing and maintaining open communication with your child is your most important tool. If you notice any behaviors or changes that concern you, openly address them.  Through persistence, you may be the one to best help your child.  Being aware of signs and symptoms of emotional distress is helpful in knowing what to look for in your child.

The following symptoms could indicate the development of mental health concerns:

  • A sudden decline in school performance
  • A fixation on death or violence
  • Unhealthy peer relationships
  • Violent mood swings or a sudden change in personality
  • Signs of an eating disorder
  • Difficulty adjusting to gender identity or sexual orientation
  • Sudden increased use of alcohol or other drugs
  • Depression, expressions of sadness or helplessness, lack of enjoyment from previously enjoyed activities, withdrawal from friends, weight loss or gain, sleeping too little or too much, or lack of concentration.
If you witness any of the above warning signs, please call for help.  
The following signs indicate that your son or daughter needs immediate intervention:
  • Threatening to hurt or kill him or herself or others
  • Obtaining a weapon or other items that they could use to hurt themselves (such as prescription drugs)
  • Talking or writing about suicide or death
If your child exhibits any of the above warning signs, call 911.  If your child has expressed an immediate plan to end his or her life, do not leave him or her alone; get help immediately.