It is challenging for any parent to watch his/her son or daughter go off to college, but this experience is magnified if a parent has concerns about the mental health and wellbeing 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, ready availability of drugs and alcohol, and decreased contact with family and social supports during a time when many individuals are biologically most prone to developing mental illness. The good news is that mental health concerns can be effectively treated using counseling, medication, or 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. First, you must strive to establish and maintain open communication with your child. If you notice any behaviors or changes that concern you, openly address these concerns with him or her. Through persistence, you may be best able to help your child. You should also be aware of signs and symptoms of emotional distress.
Symptoms that could indicate the development of mental health concerns:
The following warning signs indicate that your son or daughter needs intervention:
If you witness any of the above warning signs, call for help. You can call Counseling Services at 269-387-1850 Monday through Friday 8am-5pm. After hours, call (800) 273- TALK (8255). This National Suicide Prevention hotline is available 24 hours per day, 7 days per week and is answered locally.
Additionally, the following warning signs indicate that your son or daughter needs immediate intervention:
If your child exhibits any of the above warning signs, call 9-1-1. If your child has expressed an immediate plan to end her or his life or has access to a gun
or other potentially deadly means, do not leave him or her alone; get help immediately. Remove the potentially deadly means from his/her environment, at least temporarily during this crisis.
If your son or daughter states that he or she is depressed or considering suicide, take action. Show your child that you care by discussing your feelings and his/her feelings. While it may feel scary to ask directly about suicide; this will not place the idea in his/her head or increase the chance that he/she will consider suicide. Most likely your child will feel relief that someone has noticed their pain and has expressed concern.
If you are concerned about your son or daughter and believe that he/she needs professional intervention, you should encourage him or her to go to Counseling Services at Sindecuse Health Center. Counseling services are provided free of charge to all actively enrolled students. You can reassure him or her that counseling services are provided confidentially and seeking help is a positive choice for his or her own wellbeing that may help them reach their personal and educational goals and not a sign of weakness.
If you are interested in obtaining counseling services in the community instead of through the University, please refer to the “Resources Links” link located to the left.
You can also call Counseling Services directly (269-387-1850) if you are concerned about your student’s mental health.
While Western Michigan University will not generally notify you about your son or daughter’s behavior or emotional health, if your child is 18 years or older, however, you may be notified under the following three circumstances:
If your child or a family member attempts suicide, click on the following link for a helpful guide:
* SOURCES: American Association for Suicidology. (2007). The American Association for Suicidology’s warning signs for suicide prevention. Downloaded January 17, 2008 from
The Jed Foundation. Protecting your child’s mental health: What can parents do? Downloaded January 17, 2008 from http://www.jedfoundation.org/parentsguide.php