How To Support Your Student's Mental Health

How To Support Your Student's Mental Health

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How To Support Your Student's Mental Health

Parents, your student is officially halfway through this spring semester. Spring break is in sight, thank goodness! The stress of the semester is also weighing down on them, whether it is academic stress, finding out they have a low grade, the effects of little to no sunlight in Western PA (season affective disorder is real!), or relationship conflict with roommates or friend groups- this time of year can be particularly difficult on their overall mental health. A lot of these stressors are a “normal” part of college life; however, your student also may be moving towards signs of distress that can be more serious. Recognizing these signs can be crucial to preventing a more serious mental health issue occurring.

Given that 75% of mental illnesses begin by age 24, symptoms of mental health conditions many times emerge during the college years. Unsurprisingly, then, more than 30% of college students were diagnosed or given treatment for anxiety, and 22% for depression, in the last 12 months. Here at our campus Counseling Services, anxiety and depression have been for many years the top two reasons why students seek out our services.

Emotional Support

One of the most important ways to support your student’s mental health is by providing emotional support. Young adults are most likely to succeed in a new environment if they have built self-esteem, self-worth, self-confidence, and resilience. These are all skills that you as a parent can help them build through affirmation and modeling healthy self-talk. You can model or teach these skills by demonstrating empathy and compassion and helping them to reframe negative situations. The realization that students have a supportive family environment to go to can make a significance difference in their personal belief that they can overcome the obstacles that college can send their way.

Honest & Strategic Communication

Practicing honest and strategic communication can also be helpful. When you want to know more about your student’s life, especially if you are concerned about their well-being, you will want to carefully assess what topics to bring up, how to bring them up, and when to talk about them. Committing to a regular video call to check in on these issues can be a helpful step. A trusting relationship is also key. You should reassure your student that you are always there for them if they would like to speak about anything.

Signs To Looks For

You may be wondering how you can know if what my student is experiencing is “normal” stress of a college student or signs of distress or a possible emerging mental illness. An emotional issue is best noticed through changes in overall functioning. Some signs could include poor sleep or appetite, a change in self care (i.e. not showering), or changes in speech (talking faster or slower, change in quality).


If you notice any signs of distress or emerging mental illness, whether at home or on campus, you should reach out to your student. Sometimes parents are afraid to intrude on their child’s privacy, but if something is concerning you mention it using specific details and examples. Trust your gut- you know your student better than anyone else. Use campus supports. I am always open to speaking with parents about their concerns about their student. Due to laws of confidentiality, I may not be able to share information with you about your child (unless it is a medical emergency), but I can always listen to you and work with you to find a way to check in with your child and get back to you with some information. You can also contact our Vice President and Dean of Students, Jamie Swank, if needed. Also, please report emergencies right away. If your student is talking about violence towards self (suicidal thoughts) or others, self-harm, or sounds markedly different from usual (disorganized or incoherent speech), it is important to let Campus Security know right away so that a trained staff member can intervene. Here are some great resources to have at your fingertips:

  • Counseling Services 724-847-4081
  • Health Services 724-847-6666
  • Campus Security 724-846-9632
  • The National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline 988 (a 24/7 hotline)

Finally, encourage your students to take an active role in their own mental wellness by giving some of our amazing wellness opportunities a try.  Ask them if they have tried out any of the following:  Wellness Wednesdays, Grace Fit Yoga, Creative Process, the Fitness Center, the Rock Climbing Wall, and so many more.

We love your students, and we are here to help them navigate this transitional time in their life and to learn the skills to be emotionally well and thrive!  We are so humbled to do this work alongside of you.



Amy Solman- Director Health and Counseling Services