For Concerned Friends & Family

For Friends

When a friend, roommate, or student lining in your residence hall is in distress, it may be difficult to know what to do to help. There are, however, many ways that you can support or encourage a friend or fellow student to seek assistance. Counselors are available to consult with you if you have any questions or concerns about another student.

Some signs of a student in distress:

  • Withdrawal from activities and social interaction
  • Depression, sense of hopelessness and/or pessimism

Note: Any suicidal statements should be immediately reported to residence life or counseling staff.

  • Significant changes in sleep patterns, weight or hygiene
  • Experiencing difficulties as a result of alcohol or drug use
  • Significant difficulties in relationships with roommates, significant  other, peers, or family members
  • Difficulty coping with the death of family member or friend
  • Outbursts of anger
  • Frequent worry or anxiety
  • Restricted eating, excessive eating, or signs of purging

Guidelines for talking to a friend in distress:

  • Find an opportunity to talk privately.
  • Show concern.  Let your friend know that you want to help.
  • Be honest and direct, but avoid criticizing or being judgmental.
  • If he or she is willing to talk, listen; but don’t impose your advice or opinions.
  • Suggest that he or she call, email, or go directly to the counseling office to schedule an appointment.  If you are willing, offer to accompany your friend to schedule an appointment or to the first session.

For Parents & Family

Parents and family are often the first to suspect their children may be in turmoil and in need of counseling. It can be very frustrating for them to help when their student is striving to become autonomous and may be resistant to parental input.

Concerned parents and family members can call the Counseling Center directly to discuss any concerns about their children. Staff will be available to provide consultation and support, and will brainstorm with the parent for appropriate ways to connect the student to counseling services, if counseling is indicated.

If a student does seek counseling, the staff will always listen to parental concerns. They must provide confidential services to students but can discuss general issues, as appropriate. Counseling Services requires a signed release of information form from the student before staff can disclose any specific information to parents or family about ongoing treatment.

Remember that there will be times when students need a parent or family member to listen and allow them to vent about their frustrations, fears, anger, and sadness. The Counseling Center encourages parents to utilize our consultative services when there is any indication that their student may need more than a parent who is willing to listen.

Suggestions for Talking with Your Student

  • Listen with empathy to your student's concerns. Ask open-ended questions to keep the conversation going, if needed.
  • Avoid criticism and arguing. Express concern about what your student has told you.
  • Be specific about your concerns, including the behaviors you have noticed.
  • Coach your student to come up with solutions to the problem. Do not try to solve a problem for them.
  • Encourage your student to make an appointment for counseling. Provide information about the process, including information about confidentiality.