Mental Health Conditions: Privacy and Telling Others
Many students naturally worry about what information others will have access to – and if and how to tell their peers about their condition. Below, you’ll learn more about how confidentiality works and how you can tell your friends or others about your condition.
Mental health professionals, on and off campus, are ethically bound to keep what you say during therapy confidential unless you specifically authorize the release of information about your diagnosis and treatment, or you pose a direct threat to yourself or others.
School counseling centers and outside providers generally will not release medical information — including to family, parents/legal guardians or faculty — without written authorization.
You have a right to know about confidentiality and how personal information may be shared. These are complex subjects and the laws can still be murky. So don’t hesitate to discuss any concerns and questions with your parents and school before arriving on campus. You can also talk about confidentiality with your therapist, who should be able to explain all the details.
Should you disclose to your roommate, RA or other students that you have a mental health condition? There’s no right or wrong answer. It’s totally up to you.
If you want to disclose your condition, tell people after you get to know them and feel you can confide in them. Basically, tell the people who you trust.
When telling others, do it in a way that helps people understand how your condition might affect them. For example, you might say: “Look, I want you to know something about me. Sometimes my mood changes…sometimes pretty dramatically. I just want you know that this is something I’m aware of and I’m dealing with it. So, if I’m not responsive or interacting with you like the way I am now, chances are it has nothing to do with anything you’ve done. But, it’s okay to ask. In fact, it can be helpful.”
Something else that can be helpful is to give them accurate information on your condition. Not everyone is educated about mental illness, and, unfortunately, many myths still exist. Giving someone a brochure or the link to a good website provides them with insight into what you’re struggling with and how they can help.
- College and Drinking: Things to Keep in Mind
- Dealing with Setbacks
- Finding Help Off Campus
- Finding Help On Campus
- Getting Help
- Keep Stress in Check
- Medical Leave of Absence
- Mental Health Conditions: Privacy and Telling Others
- Preventing Suicide
- The Basics: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- The Basics: Bipolar Disorder
- The Basics: Alcohol and Drug Dependence and Abuse
- The Basics: Anxiety Disorders
- The Basics: Depression
- The Basics: Eating Disorders
- The Basics: Schizophrenia
- The Basics: Self-Injury (Cutting)
- The Negative Effects of Stress
- Three Important Guidelines for Transitioning with a Diagnosed Condition
- Transferring Treatment to College
- Types of Mental Health Professionals
- What Every Student Needs to Know
- Who Will Struggle with Mental Illness?
- Your First Counseling Appointment: Questions to Ask