A child's departure for college is a significant change in the life of a family. You are likely to experience a mix of positive and negative feelings. Included in this section is information that we hope will assist you in helping your child navigate successfully through the personal, developmental, and psychological challenges that can arise during their time at the University of Chicago.
Entering students currently receiving mental health treatment
If your child is currently receiving mental health treatment, SCS can assist your child to get established with mental health care providers in Chicago. In the intake appointment the counselor can help the student sort out what services we may be able to offer on a short term basis at SCS. These are covered under the Student Life Fee that all registered students are required to pay. For students already receiving mental health treatment, either counseling or medication, a referral to area mental health providers will most likely be recommended since SCS is an acute care clinic. We can recommend private practitioners as well as hospital and agency based services that will be appropriate for the student. If purchased, the cost of this treatment will be partially covered under the student health insurance through the University of Chicago U-SHIP or it may or may not be covered under a parent’s insurance, if U-SHIP has been waived.
Signs of a potential problem
Psychological and emotional problems may present during the course of college or graduate school. The period of emerging adulthood from 18 to 25 is considered a robust time of psychological growth with numerous developmental challenges. As parents, you may observe behavioral signs or changes that concern you. The following list offers some behavioral signs that may reflect potential problems:
- Aggressive or threatening behavior
- Social withdrawal or other marked change in social habits
- Marked changes in personal hygiene
- Preoccupation with weight, food or exercise
- Dramatic weight loss or gain
- Excessive crying, emotionality or mood changes
- Marked changes in energy level (e.g., listlessness or hyperactivity)
- Noticeable changes potentially associated with drinking or drug use
- Increases in pessimism, hopelessness or helplessness
- Change in academic habits (e.g., a historically hard-working student who seems not to care about academic performance anymore)
- Bizarre behaviors (e.g., paranoia, strange speech patterns)
- References to suicide or death
- Any other behaviors or symptoms which represent a sudden departure from the behavior you have always seen from your child
What to do when your child is having difficulty or is in crisis.
As a parent you may be in a good position to help the student acknowledge that there is a problem. Talking promptly, openly and caringly about your observations and concerns will likely have the best result. Here are a few suggestions on how to respond to changes you may observe in your child.
- Don’t “put off until tomorrow.” Gently raise your concerns with your son or daughter as soon as you notice problems. Ignoring disturbing behavior is unlikely to “make it go away.”
- Have a caring, concerned nonjudgmental discussion of your concerns. Choose a time and place carefully to allow for a private and honest discussion.
- Listen at least as much as you talk.
- Avoid the temptation to be critical or judgmental.
- Avoid the temptation to offer easy solutions to problems or to “take care of everything” for your child.
- Know your own limits. Do not feel pressured to take on the problems yourself. University staff may be better able to help your child with their concerns. Being able to refer your child to University resources is a vital role you can play.
How to refer to SCS
Please encourage your child to call SCS to schedule an appointment. Students may be hesitant to seek out counseling and your encouragement can facilitate your child in getting the services they need. Let your child know that no concern is too small or too large for a consultation at SCS.
The Student Counseling Service, located at 5555 S. Woodlawn Avenue, is open Monday through Friday 8:30am to 5:00pm. Our telephone number is 773-702-9800. Students are encouraged to call to schedule an initial (intake) appointment. Intake appointments can be scheduled within several days. If the matter is urgent, the student can walk in to SCS and ask to speak with the staff member-on-call. When SCS is closed, a counselor is always available by telephone (773-702-3625).
How SCS can help you as a parent
We are always available for consultations with concerned parents. Our staff member-on-call can discuss your concerns about your child’s well-being and may help to confirm or dispel them. We are a resource for you as well as for your child.
Confidentiality and parent communication with SCS
The Illinois mental health code ensures confidentiality for people seeking mental health services. We are unable, therefore, to give you any information about your child, including whether your child is being seen at SCS, without your child's written consent. This may feel frustrating to you when you are reaching out in concern for your child. If your child would like to provide consent for you to have information about their care and participation in services at SCS, your child can complete the necessary consent form at SCS.