Information for Parents
Know the Risk Factors
There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to risk factors for suicide, but the list below highlights some of the more common factors. Those who understand a students’ habits and personality best – such as their parents – will be the most effective when it comes to identifying specific risks. If your child has a lot of these risk factors, you should monitor them more closely while away at college.
- A history of self-destructive habits
- Substance abuse
- Changes in relationships
- History of family depression and/or suicide
- Previous suicide attempts
- Untreated mental health problems (such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder)
- Fear or embarrassment over seeking help for mental health problems
- Feeling lonely, shameful, inadequate, or alienated
- Lack of close relationships
How to Take Action from a Distance
If it’s a Crisis
- Call campus public safety at (503) 218-9000 to let them know your child is exhibiting dangerous behaviors. Give the officers your child’s location and and ask them to go check on your child’s safety.
- Call the resident director of your child’s dorm or one of your child’s friends and ask them to stay with your child until help can arrive.
- If WOU isn’t far way, you can come yourself to check on your child.
If You’re Concerned
- Encourage your child to meet with a counselor. Find counseling near campus.
- Ask if your child has been taking any prescribed medications regularly.
- Ensure you’re speaking regularly and reinforce that your child can always come to you.
- Remind your child that it’s fine to take time off from school if it’s too overwhelming.
- Encourage your child to speak with their resident advisor and professors and ask for help if needed.
Tips for Supporting your College Student
Don’t be afraid to have open and frank conversations. Because college students are around people who don’t know them as well, it’s important for them to have someone check in on how they’re doing and if they’re taking care of themselves.
When young adults suffer from depression or anxiety, getting involved in new student activities can be scary, but they can also help. There are student organizations at WOU for everyone.
College students are busy, but they can usually set aside 30 minutes a week to chat with their parents. By starting this tradition early, students know they have an outlet to talk about what’s going on in their lives on a regular basis.
Even after making new friends and traditions at school, it’s likely your college student will still miss and crave the familiarity of being at home. Think about sending some reminders of home:
- local foods associated with good memories (e.g. bread from the bakery down the street or apples from the farmers market)
- funny pictures or videos of family pets
- reminders of birthday traditions (e.g. balloons or a restaurant gift card)
While good grades are great to aspire to, at the end of the day, the most important thing is making sure students are healthy and happy at school. If your child calls to say they got a bad grade or had to drop a class, respond in a supportive way that lets them know they can come to you with anything and you won’t overreact.
WOU hosts a Family Weekend every February, which is a terrific opportunity to visit your student and take-part in different activities. But you don’t have to wait for Family Weekend. If your student is feeling overwhelmed by college changes, going to visit them or paying for a ticket home allows them to disconnect and reset.
What medical information can be shared with me?
Parents are not able to access any medical records for children above the age of 18. Your student can request that certain information be shared with you. If your student does choose to fill-out a medical release form, they’ll need to specify what types of information they want to be shared (versus a blanket authorization).
At the Student Health & Counseling Center, students may also call a parent directly from the clinician’s office, allowing the parent to speak with the clinician directly at the time of the appointment.
You may also consider building a relationship with the Resident Director or Resident Advisor of your child’s dorm so you have someone to check in with if you don’t hear from the student for an extended period. Usually, RDs and RAs can help keep an eye on your student without giving away private information.