Connecting Your Child with Mental Health Resources on Campus
Your goal is to encourage your child to seek help before problems become debilitating. Have your child call to find out about campus mental health programs, services and resources. If helpful, you can even join them on the line. Or, propose that your child call or visit the counseling or health center to make an initial appointment or learn more about their services and resources.
The types and number of mental health professionals available on campus differs from school to school. Most colleges have a counselor or counseling center on campus where students can be seen free of charge for a set number of visits (this number varies by campus). If a student needs ongoing treatment, referrals for professionals in the surrounding community are generally provided.
If you’ve explored on-campus mental health resources as part of the college selection or transition process, you will have some answers already at hand. If not, you and your child will need to jointly explore the resources available.
Questions to Answer
If your child is reluctant to contact the counseling center, discuss the possibility of your calling to learn more. More information may help persuade your child to take the next step.
- What kinds of professionals and programs are available?
- Are there fees involved?
- What is the average waiting time for getting an appointment?
- Is group therapy offered?
- Are there a maximum number of sessions allowed per year?
- What types of mental health specialists are on staff? Is there an on-staff psychiatrist?
- Is there a pharmacy on-site?
- Does the counseling center provide off-campus referrals?
- Does the counseling center have satellite offices, such as dorm-based counseling?
- Is there a counselor on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week? If not, what types of after-hours emergency services are available?
A Word About Privacy
A common misperception among parents is that the school will notify them if their student seeks the services of on-campus health care professionals. If your child is over 18, they must provide written notice to the treatment provider before information may be shared with anyone.
Whether or not you were involved in your child’s search for help, it’s not uncommon for students to be concerned that anything they say to a therapist might get back to their parents. Make sure your child clearly understands that all health care professionals are ethically bound to keep what is said during treatment confidential, except in limited circumstances. For example, therapists are permitted to share information with parents if they feel students are imminent danger of harming themselves or others.
Together, you and your child may wish to explore off-campus options, such as inpatient, outpatient and day-treatment at a physician’s office, mental health center or hospital.
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