For any student, college is a time of transition. Many students are away from home for the first time, academics become more rigorous and there are new financial pressures and extra-curricular activities. The pressure of college life can be overwhelming at times. As a result, depression and other associated disorders, such as eating disorders, substance abuse and anxiety disorders, may appear. Often these problems are disregarded as feelings of stress or being overwhelmed—parents worry—are they being overprotective or are they missing signs that something serious is going on? Knowledgeable and proactive parents can be a great advocate for their sons’ and daughters’ mental health, especially during the transition from high school through the first semester of college.

  • Call the counseling center at the college and ask about services available. If possible, visit the center during a campus visit or orientation and meet the counselors.
  • Normalize the process of seeking counseling with your son or daughter.
  • If your son or daughter is already diagnosed with a mental health condition and is needing on-going treatment (medication and/or therapy), proactively coordinate this care with the providers on campus.

Special issues:

  • Balancing privacy with parenting
  • Changing family roles
  • Setting expectations
  • Losing a child to suicide


  • College of the Overwhelmed: The Campus Mental Health Crisis and What to Do About It, by Richard D. Kadison and Theresa Foy DiGeronimo (2004)
  • Don’t Tell Me What To Do: Just Send Money, by Helen Johnson and Christine Schelhas-Miller, (2000).
  • When Your Kid Goes to College: A Parent’s Survival Guide, by Carol Barkin (1999).
  • Letting Go: A Parents’ Guide to Understanding the College Years, by Karen Levin Coburn and Madge Lawrence Treeger (1997).

For more information, please check out the following links.

  • Protecting Your Child’s Mental Health – What Can Parents Do? (Jed Foundation)
  • Mental Health and the College Student Online Workshop for Parents (University of Minnesota)
  • College health guide for parents (Revolution Health)
  • College Mental Health News (Villanova University)

Resources for suicide survivors.

  • Parents surviving suicide (Compassionate Friends)
  • SOS Handbook
  • On-line resources including discussion boards