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Mental Health Screening

Student Complaint Form

Supporting Your Student’s Mental Health

Starting college provides a cascade of changes, potential anxieties and worries about not measuring up. And that’s in a good year. Many students find their way into a rhythm of managing time and work. They may have stress, but largely they handle the cycles of quarters or semesters. Others struggle more, and sometimes their stress grows into distress.

The onset of mental illness usually happens early in life, about 50% of the time by age 14 and another 25% of the time by age 24. Seeking treatment does not always follow. One study (Wang et al., 2005) found an average wait time for individuals experiencing clinical depression of six to eight years. For anxiety disorders, the average delay was nine to 23 years. The longer the delay between the onset of mental illness and the start of treatment, the more difficult it can be to successfully treat these issues.  (data from

If your student has past or current mental health concerns, it is unrealistic to expect them to leave these behind when starting college or other postsecondary pursuits. The good news is that you can learn how to support them and help them manage the underlying stressors.

Guidelines & Tips

  • Show your confidence in your student by allowing them to learn from their mistakes, own and celebrate their successes, and fight their own battles
  • College is a time of self-preoccupation which can sometimes appear self-centered and oblivious to the feelings and needs of other family members.  This, too, shall pass!
  • Be a “safety net” not a “safety harness”
  • Help your student remember to put the inevitable ups and downs of college in perspective
  • Remember that they are still practicing to be full-fledged adults.  Achieving maturity is a long process
  • Keep phone calls brief and non-prying.  Listen more than talk
  • Encourage your student to get involved in at least one extra curricular activity in the first semester
  • Early homesickness does not predict poor adjustment to college
  • Encourage your student to stay on campus most weekends, especially during the first semester
  • Surprise visits to the residence hall room are seldom welcome
  • Help them stay connected with events going on at home – keep them in the loop
  • Try to ignore changes in clothing, hair, or language; these will eventually pass
  • Keep his/her room the same for at least a semester, if possible
  • Find new interests yourself or pursue old ones
  • Keep the communication channels open.  Discuss difficult topics (e.g., alcohol, drugs, sex, relationships, future careers) prior to coming as well as throughout college
  • Familiarize with campus, community and online resources.  There are many!
  • Remember that developing independence is crucial and requires efforts from both parents and students.  Resist the urge for multiple contacts per day, limit advice giving/seeking for small problems of daily living
  • Tell your child that you love them unconditionally and are available for support. Focus on your child’s development, well-being, and whether or not they are meeting their academic requirements, rather than their specific grades. Of course, if they are doing poorly due to emotional or environmental difficulties, it would be appropriate and important to express concern about this and help your student identify the correct resources to get the help they need in order to address those problems.

Parents, Health Insurance & Off Campus Services

As we shift to a single-session, solution-focused approach; students in need of ongoing therapeutic care may find their needs best met by a provider off-campus. Parents can help facilitate this by: 

  • Communicating your support for your student taking care of their mental health needs
  • Offering to help them navigate behavioral health coverage with your insurance provider if the student is covered under your plan
  • Coaching your student in clearly communicating their needs to a potential therapist in order to receive effective and accurate care

Many therapists are continuing to provide services via teletherapy, reducing barriers to access associated with transportation. Students may still access the UCC in crisis situations (e.g. suicidal thoughts, sexual assault, death/impending death of a loved one, etc.) by calling – even if their primary therapist is not at our center.


Just for Parents and Families Part I: What to Do Before School Starts Just for Parents and Families Part II: Help with the College Transition