Information for Parents

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.

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, you can contact Public Safety the student is on campus. Refer to the Mental Health Crisis/Emergency Tab for more information. 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 (Mental Health Delegate of Philadelphia at 215-685-6440)
  • If on campus, you can Call Holy Family Public Safety at 267-341-3333 to assist you in obtaining emergency mental health assistance.
  • Call or Text the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255)/ Text “Home” to 741-741. This service is available 24/7.


It is important to know that suicidal thoughts or feelings may be present for individuals experiencing depression or other mental health concerns. Know the warning signs for suicide.

Drug or alcohol use is increased or problematic

Often feels like a burden to others

Extreme moods swings are displayed

Sleeps too little or too much


No HOPE for the future; does NOT have a reason to live

Overwhelming anger to the point of RAGE or talks about seeking revenge

Trapped/ HELPLESS feeling or unbearable pain is experienced


Ways of ending life (PLANNING) are sought by the person

Agitated-Anxious or reckless behavior is engaged in

Isolates themselves and withdraws

Talks about wanting to die/end life/kill themselves and may even give away belongings

These warning signs may mean that someone is at risk for suicide.  The risk may be greater following a tragic event or loss, if the individual has increased their use of alcohol or drugs, or the individual is behaving in a reckless or agitated manner. Individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning, as well as veterans, are also at higher risk for suicide.

If you are NOT concerned for your immediate safety or that of others, but have observed seriously concerning behaviors/symptoms:

  • Do not leave someone alone if he/she is in danger of self-harm.
  • Talk to the individual privately and acknowledge the individual's feelings.
  • Take it seriously and communicate your concern.
  • Know that talking to individuals about suicide does not increase their risk. 


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



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:

  • 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

If the person would like to speak with a counselor, make an appointment with the Counseling Center. If they are in a high level of distress and want to speak to someone right away, they can call 1-800-273-TALK (8255). They will be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in their area, anytime 24/7. If you would rather speak to someone online, text the word “Home” to 741741.  Crisis Text Line serves anyone, in any type of crisis, providing access to free, 24/7 support and information.


What Happens once a student books an appointment with the Counseling Center?

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.



Counseling Center staff are available for consultation services for students. Consultations can focus on a concern for an individual student, behavior issues in the classroom, and on specific topics of concern (eating concerns, depression/anxiety, time management, how to address a student who is not completing assignments, etc.). The Counseling Center also runs workshops and groups covering many topics on issues to which you can refer students. You may also contact the Counseling Center to discuss the design and presentation of a workshop specific to your classroom needs.


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: