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How Parents Can Help

As a parent you have a special role of both knowing your son or daughter the best and as having a very influential role for encouraging or discouraging help seeking behavior.  Your knowledge of your child and your support is a vital resource.  

Supporting the adjustment to college, being aware of and encouraging access to campus and community resources, and navigating crisis periods may be some of the important roles you play.  

Ways Parents Can Help

Understand depression

  • Your understanding and acceptance
    For some families it is relatively easy to acknowledge if a family member is depressed, perhaps, because someone else in the family has been depressed and responded well to treatment.  In other families being depressed may be viewed as a weakness, self pity, or something to be ashamed of.  It is not unusual for individuals struggling with depressed mood then to dismiss or deny it in some way and expect that they should be able to perform just as well academically and socially as if they were not feeling depressed.  This only serves to exacerbate self-critical and hopeless and helpless feelings that could build up and lead to thoughts of self harm.   It is important for parents to educate themselves about depression.  A parent’s understanding and acceptance that their son or daughter is struggling with depression can open the door to effective treatment.  It can be a great relief to a child to know they are not letting down a parent when they acknowledge feeling depressed.
  • JED Foundation parent guide for depression   
  • Be aware of other clinical concerns and risk factors – please refer to our self help and wellness information on topics such as academic skills, alcohol and substance abuse, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, sexual assault, sleep, etc.

Encourage self care behavior

Encourage your daughter or son to access wellness and counseling resources on campus.

  • How to talk to your daughter or son about coming to CAPS
    • Describe what you observe
    • Be objective by stating what you observe and are concerned about and avoid making assumptions about why your son or daughter is distressed (e.g., you seem pretty upset…, unhappy…, anxious; you said you were missing class…, worried about your grades…etc.)
  • State your concern for your daughter or son
    • Indicate that you are more concerned about their well being than their performance and that you want to help.
  • Inquire
    • Ask about what seems to be wrong or how you could help.
  • Listen
    • Just listen, carefully, sensitively, without judgment.  Give them your undivided attention.  Accept what they are saying without agreeing or disagreeing with his/her behavior or point of view.
  • Empathize
    • Sincerely communicate your understanding of the issue as they describe it, in both content and feeling.
  • Ask this question: “What have you tried or planned to do about this concern?”
  • Offer Hope
    • Help them understand that the situation can improve, and that things will not always seem so bad.  Do not try to fix too quickly, criticize, moralize, correct, or make decisions for them.  
  • Encourage
    • Encourage your son or daughter to continue to talk about their issues, and remind them that it is normal to talk with someone he/she can trust when in need of help.  Talking is a natural way to relieve stressful emotions.
  • Offer Options
    • Your student may find it helpful to talk also with their R.A. or Community Director if they live on campus.  They may want to talk with a trusted faculty member, administrator or staff member.  They may want to talk with a family member, family physician, or family clergy  
  • Suggest speaking to a therapist at Counseling and Psychological Services
    • Remind them that it’s free and confidential.  Tell them that talking to a CAPS therapist is a mature, healthy step to take, and is not a sign of weakness. For information on how to access CAPS, see a First Time Visit. It is not unusual for a concerned friend, faculty / staff, or family member to encourage the student to contact CAPS and even accompany them to the first appointment if this would help enable the student to come to CAPS. 


Consultations to Parents and Confidentiality

Consultations to concerned and/or interested parents via phone or in-person, are available and welcome at CAPS. Parents are encouraged to call and discuss any concerns they may have regarding the well-being of their daughter or son with a CAPS Counselor On-Call at 919-966-3658.

It is important to understand that strict and complete confidentiality applies for all students who receive services at CAPS and who are 18 years old or older, and that no information will be released to anyone without the student's written consent (unless a serious concern about threat to self or others is present). CAPS is not at liberty to confirm or deny that a student has visited CAPS, nor to disclose any information without a signed Release of Information form.

What the CAPS Counselor On-Call can provide is general consultation that is specific to your concerns, suggestions and recommendations on how best to enhance your student's well-being, as well as ways to encourage your student to visit CAPS when appropriate. Other on-campus services that are available to your student may be presented as complimentary sources of assistance.

You know your student better than anyone, and you are most often the first place a distressed student will turn to for help. Please recommend CAPS as a resource to your daughter or son, and please don't hesitate to call the CAPS Counselor On-Call if the need arises.

Collaborate with Counseling and Psychological Services at times of crisis.

  • Contacting CAPS
    • For non-urgent concerns students can visit anytime between 9:00 am - 12:00 pm or 1:00 pm - 4:00 pm Monday - Thursday or 9:30 - 12:00 pm and 1:00 pm - 4:00 pm on Friday, or call 919-966-3658 and ask to speak with a CAPS triage therapist. The initial visit is designed to assess concerns, provide immediate support, and plan for continuing interventions and resources to help the student. Students will typically call or visit themselves but it is not unusual for a concerned friend, faculty / staff, or family member to encourage the student to contact CAPS and even accompany them to the first appointment if this would help enable the student to come to CAPS. 
    • CAPS has an urgent care service Monday through Friday 8am – 5pm in which students can either call to consult with a crisis therapist or visit CAPS and be seen that day for urgent concerns. Urgent concerns are defined as when the student is in acute distress and their functioning is disrupted or when there is any concern of harm to self or others. Students, parents, faculty, and staff are encouraged to call our urgent care service when they feel concerned about a student and want help referring a student to CAPS.
    • After Hours Urgent Care and Emergencies, call 966-2281
    • Emergency service is available when urgent concerns or emergencies arise outside of usual business hours (M-F, 8:00 am - 5:00 pm).  Campus Health Services is open until 8;00 pm Monday through Friday and 9:00 am – 5:00 pm Saturdays and Sundays.  During these hours CAPS is closed but there is a nursing triage service available at CHS.  Outside of these hours students and concerned parents, faculty, and staff can call 919-966-2281 and they will be able to speak to a UNC Health Link nurse who will triage their call to an appropriate mental health professional.
    • If You Are Dealing With A Life Threatening Or Imminent Crisis Situation, Immediately Call The Campus Police At 919-962-8100 Or Proceed To The UNC Hospitals Emergency Room
  • When hospitalization may be necessary – When a student has made a suicide attempt or is dealing with compelling impulses or thoughts about self harm or is out of contact with reality hospitalization may be necessary.  CAPS therapists will evaluate a student’s safety and ability to take care of themselves and decide about hospitalization.  In most instances students will be able to cooperate with the therapists assessment and voluntarily agree to enter the hospital.  Infrequently a student is not able to realistically assess their own risk, will be uncooperative, and need to be involuntarily committed to the hospital.  Most often a student in crisis will be encouraged to allow the CAPS therapists to contact their family to inform them of the crisis and coordinate support and treatment.  Sometimes family members will be available and able to supervise and help a student through a crisis and thus avert a hospitalization, depending on the severity and how imminent their risk is.  In most cases students needing hospitalization will be referred to the UNC Neurosciences Hospital (located adjacent to the Campus Health Services building) where communication with the department of psychiatry can be easily facilitated.
  • Once a student has been hospitalized – The hospital inpatient treatment team will take over the student’s care and plan for appropriate follow up care after discharge.  CAPS can assist with addressing academic concerns arising from the student’s emotional difficulties.  There are some instances when a student’s self harm behavior has come to some public attention and the Dean of Student’s Office has been notified.  This may initiate a review process by the Dean of Student’s Office to evaluate the student’s status before they return to classes and their residence hall (if living on campus).  This process is established to ensure that the student is not at continuing risk to self or others and has appropriate treatment supports established.