Resources for Parents

Tips for Parents and Loved Ones

Parents and Loved Ones as Helping Resources for Student

University students typically experience a wide range of stressors/issues (i.e. academic, family, social, developmental, financial, and work) during their time at WAU. Parents, family members, friends and others, by virtue of the frequency and nature of their contacts with their loved one are often seen as more logical first contacts for advice and support. More importantly, you are often one of the first and sometimes the only person to recognize that your loved one is not functioning well, academically or personally. Hopefully, the information on this webpage will assist you in handling those who may be in need of mental health services.

Recognizing a Troubled Loved One

 Sometimes it is easy to identify those who are struggling and at times their distress is hidden. Here are some obvious and not so obvious signs of distress to look for.

Signs of Depression

  • Inability to concentrate
  • Low self-esteem
  • Change in appetite
  • Crying spells
  • Loss of pleasure
  • Sleeping difficulties
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Lack of energy or fatigue
  • Feelings of helplessness/hopelessness
  • Suicidal thoughts

Signs of Anxiety

  • Constantly tense, worried, or on edge
  • Anxiety interferes with your work, school, or family responsibilities
  • Plagued by fears that you know are irrational, but can’t shake
  • Belief that something bad will happen if certain things aren’t done a certain way
  • Avoidance of everyday situations or activities because they cause you anxiety
  • Experience sudden, unexpected attacks of heart-pounding panic
  • Feel like danger and catastrophe are around every corner

Academic Performance

  • Drop in class attendance
  • Incapacitating test anxiety
  • Pattern of dropping classes
  • Poor academic performance
  • Severe reactions to poor test/paper grade
  • Unrealistic career goals
  • Chronic indecisiveness or procrastination
  • Academic probation
  • Poor study, reading and or comprehension skills
  • Academic dismissal

Unusual Behavior

  • Disruptive behavior
  • Aggressive/threatening behavior
  • Dramatic weight change
  • Prolonged or extreme emotionality
  • Significant decline in personal hygiene
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Inappropriate or bizarre conversation
  • Self-injurious behavior

Life-Circumstance Concerns

  • Death or serious illness of family member or friend
  • Illness (loss of health)
  • Relationship breakup
  • Parents’ divorce
  • Coming out as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender
  • Cultural oppression/discrimination
  • Difficulty making and keeping friends
  • Shyness
  • Problems with roommates
  • Severe homesickness

References to Suicide or Homicide

  • Feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, worthlessness
  • Homicidal threats
  • Preoccupation with death, giving away valued possessions
  • Isolation from others
  • Thoughts or threats of suicide or plans for suicide
  • Physical threats to others

Other Concerns

  • Alcohol and other drug abuse
  • Physical Assault/Abuse
  • Internet usage (i.e. pornography, gambling)
  • Sexual Assault/Abuse

Your Role

Although these signs and symptoms may serve as warning signs that a loved one is in distress, most by themselves do not necessarily mean that they have a serious problem that warrants psychological help. (References to suicide or homicide are obvious exceptions). In general, the more of these behaviors you observe, the more cause there is for concern, particularly if these behaviors persist over a period of time. These are signals that suggest you should consider expressing your concern to your loved one and possibly referring them to mental health services.

Referring a Loved One

Referral may be made to mental health professionals, deans, housing personnel, academic advisers, and the like. When you are faced with a loved one whom you feel you cannot help, for whatever reason, it is helpful to know about the campus resources so that you can make appropriate referrals. If you are referring someone for professional counseling, knowing the services of the counseling center will help you. If you are unsure about the services of the Counseling Center or would like to consult about a particular loved one, please feel free to contact the center.

Crisis Situation

If the crisis occurs during the day, call the Counseling Center (891-4089) or Health Services (891-4525) to arrange the appropriate appointment or gathering of information. When contacting either department, it will be helpful to declare this is an emergency and that the loved one needs to be seen right away. If the crisis occurs after business hours or the individual won’t see a counselor, can’t be found, or refuses contact with others, call the Maryland Crisis number 301-728-2255 and you will get a consultation with a mental health professional. In the event of an emergency please call 911 or visit your nearest hospital.


The Counseling Center adheres to state laws and ethical standards that require that the information resulting from counseling is held in strict confidence. Unless a student signs a release of information, the center will not acknowledge to outside parties (e.g. parents, friends, faculty/staff) that a student is being seen or has been seen at the agency. Exceptions are made when there is a clear and present danger to self or others, apparent child abuse, or in a response to a court order as prescribed by the State of Maryland Mental Health Confidentiality Act.

Counseling Services

Contact Information: (301) 891-4089