Information for Parents and Friends

Helping Your Adult Child

You may be one of the first individuals to notice that something is wrong or that a student is distressed.  Although emotional distress may be expected, especially during times of high stress, you may notice that your child is acting out of character or in ways that are inconsistent with their previous behavior.  

You may be a resource in times of trouble, and your expression of interest and concern may be critical in helping your child regain emotional stability. You may also be in a good position to assist the student in accessing campus and community resources so that appropriate interventions can occur. Parents should be aware that students who live on campus may seek support from Residence Services staff who are living in those residence halls.

Helping a Friend in Distress

Sometimes a friend will be going through a tough time, and you may want to help. It is generally helpful to approach this student in a concerned, caring, and non-judgmental way. Tell the person specifically why you are concerned (e.g., "I am concerned about you because you are worried so much and have not been able to sleep for three days"). You can recommend that the person make an appointment to speak with a Counselor in the Counseling Center.

Frequently, this person will be relieved that someone has noticed their distress. If this person is willing, you can help them call the counseling center, and even accompany them to the first appointment if they want you to be there.

Booking an Appointment

Students also can receive a free, confidential initial intake assessment and/or consultation with the Counseling Services Center in order to determine their need for mental health treatment and the type that would be most appropriate for them. Students can book this appointment online from our landing page. You can also find out more detailed information about the specific services we offer at the Counseling Services Center.

If you have any questions or feel you would like to personally speak to one of our counselors, please reach out to us via email or by calling 267-341-3222. Do not leave detailed personal information via email or voicemail for confidentiality purposes. Leave your and the student’s name and contact information to call you back. 

What Happens Once a Student Books an Appointment

A student who comes to the Counseling Center will meet with one of the Counselors for an initial intake assessment session in which the Counselor and the student will begin to determine what help is needed and how best to assist the student. This may be simply one visit at the Counseling Center, counseling at the Counseling Center, referral to another campus office, or possibly an off campus referral for other types of intervention or more specialized longer-term treatment.


If you have referred a student or loved one for assistance, you are probably still concerned for that person and wondering how they are doing. Behavioral and mental health Counselors are held to higher standards than are other university employees who must abide by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Legal and ethical obligations prevent a Counselor from discussing a student's status with you.

Counselors cannot even confirm or deny that a student has sought services! You may follow-up with the student and to ask the student if s/he followed through with your referral and went to the Counseling Center.

FERPA regulations prohibit you from revealing information about the student to anyone outside of the university. This includes parents and other agencies. As tempting as it may be, you should not be discussing the student with individuals or agencies outside of the university unless you have written permission from the student to do so.

Communications within the university should also be extremely limited to a "need to know" basis. You should not be revealing information about a student to other faculty, staff, coaches, or administrators unless there is a compelling reason to do so, which is why so many faculty and staff seek consultation from the Counseling Center and/or Health Services. These two areas are completely confidential with which it is appropriate to discuss relevant concerns about a student. In any case, it is good practice to respect the student's privacy.

If the student appears hesitant to discuss the issue with you after you have made a referral, this is fine. You may just wish to state that you wanted the student to know that you are concerned for their well-being and hope they are doing better.

What if your child/friend does not want to go to the Counseling Center? 

Sometimes the person might state that they are not interested in talking to someone at this time. Sometimes this is because they may feel uncomfortable talking with a Counselor, or may be scared to talk about a problem because it feels overwhelming. They may minimize the problem or think the Counseling Center cannot be of assistance.

If it is not an emergency situation, try to be open to the fact that the person may need some time to choose to talk to someone. As mentioned, if it is not an emergency or crisis situation, be patient, supportive and friendly. You may also consult with one of the Counselors about how to help this person. Your request for assistance will be kept confidential in accordance with the Counseling Center's policies on confidentiality.

Encourage them to Take a Check-Up from the Neck-Up. ULifeline is available for free information, screening, and ideas on ways to help friends. In addition, there are many other resources on-line that can provide additional information about helping others. Check out the self-help resources page for links to education and assessment tools for a variety of concerns college students often face. You can share this information with your friend and search the sites together.


Counseling Center staff are available for consultation services for students and their support system. If you want to discuss our services further, please have your student book a consultation appointment.



Mental Health Crisis

In rare situations, if you feel that a friend or loved one is at risk to harm themselves or others or you are unsure about their safety and they are on campus, you can contact Public Safety at 267-341-3333. If the student of concern is off campus, please do one of the following:

  • Call 911
  • Go to your nearest emergency room
  • Call Mental Health Delegate/Mobile Crisis in your community and ask for a welfare check (Mental Health Delegate of Philadelphia at 215-685-6440)
  • Call or Text the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255)/ Text “Home” to 741-741. This service is available 24/7. 

Mental Health Distress Do’s 

  • Do call 911 or Public Safety if you have immediate concerns for student’s safety or the safety of others
  • Do speak to the individual privately in a non-judgmental fashion
  • Do let the student know you are concerned for their welfare
  • Do use active Listening Skills
  • Do Validate and Explore Options
  • Do remind help is available and a signal of strength
  • Do maintain clear and consistent boundaries
  • Do refer individual to appropriate campus or community resource
  • Do acknowledge and discuss the student's fears and concerns about seeking a consultation from a mental health professional
  • Do point out that a situation Does not have to reach crisis proportions for the student to benefit from professional help

Mental Health Distress Don'ts

  • Don't ignore unusual behavior or minimize their situation
  • Don't ignore warning signs about individual’s safety or the safety of others
  • Don't promise confidentiality
  • Don't judge or criticize
  • Don't make the problem your own
  • Don't involve yourself beyond the limits of your time, skill, or emotional well-being
  • Don't make promises regarding services
  • Don't forget to call Counseling Services to receive your own support and guidance in helping our students receive effective treatment
  • Don't pathologize a student's experience. All people experience negative emotions and experience trying periods in their life
  • Don't promise specific treatment to the student.

What if the student is feeling really upset, depressed, or anxious, but it is not an emergency?

There are several things individuals can do in times of great distress to relieve some of this distress such as:

  • If appropriate, book a Same Day Emergency Appointment

Same day session with a counselor for students experiencing high levels of psychological distress which is interfering with their ability to function, and therefore, assessment by a counselor is indicated. Session focuses on assessing level of distress, offering help tolerating negative emotions in the moment, determining the level of support and treatment needed, and giving assistance in obtaining additional support. Find out more about Same Day Emergency Appointments.

  • Sign up for Tao Connect free Therapy Assistance Online
  • Journal or write down your thoughts in any creative way you can think of such as poetry, music lyrics, etc.
  • Talk to a trusted friend, family member, or adult role model
  • Practice relaxation techniques or meditate (check out our self-help link!)
  • Listen to soothing music or watch a comforting or funny movie
  • Exercise or do anything active such as take a walk or play a sport
  • Color, draw, craft, paint, etc.
  • Distract yourself with any healthy and soothing activity you can think of

Free Mental Health Trainings and Resources 

These online Mental Health Trainings and Referral Assistance to help you assist students in distress.

Ask, Listen, Refer

Ask Listen Refer is a statewide online suicide prevention training program

Take this Suicide Prevention Training to better equip yourself in responding to student mental health crisis. The Ask, Listen, Refer Suicide Prevention Training Program is designed to help you recognize the risk factors and warning signs of suicide and respond appropriately.This 15-20 minute interactive training program can be found at Ask, Listen, Refer

Tao Therapy Assistance Online

Tao Therapy Assistance Online

TAO includes over 150 brief, effective, educational sessions covering over 50 common topics and skills related to mental health, wellness, and substance use issues. TAO Includes interactive sessions, mindfulness exercises and practice tools all aimed at helping students achieve their goals. 

Our TAO page will explain more about how students can create an account. 

ThrivingCampus: Find Community Providers


Holy Family University has partnered with ThrivingCampus, to make it easier for you to connect with off-campus mental health care and well-being services. This online directory contains licensed mental health clinicians, many of whom specialize in working with students. You can browse and filter providers based on your needs and preferences.

Other Resources

There are numerous resources that can provide assistance to students. In addition to the Counseling Center, these include a physician, Health Services, Center for Academic Enhancement, Academic Advising, Campus Ministry, Careers Center, Disability Services, Residence Life, and parents. When you refer to students or a loved one, it is important that you encourage them to contact these resources on their own. Although you may desire to call or arrange an appointment for the student, except in a serious emergency or life-threatening situation, it is important for the student to arrange these appointments for themselves.

Additional Parent Resources: