When looking at colleges, are you asking about mental health services?

Monday’s stabbing at the University of Texas looks to be the result of a mental health crisis.


University of Texas students look at a homicide scene on the UT campus on Monday. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

College is often when kids who might have struggled with mental health in middle school and high school are now on their own. They are away from parents’ watchful eyes that often make sure that they are getting the counseling they need, taking the medication they’ve been prescribed correctly and being there to recognize when behaviors have changed indicating the need for an intervention or medication change.

It’s also a time when new mental health problems can occur. Symptoms from diagnoses like schizophrenia can show up anytime from ages 16 to 30. That brain is still being formed until age 25 for men and 22 for women.

On a regular basis, I walk with a neighbor who teaches at a local university. This year she’s had many students who have had erratic attendance that she later finds out is because of anxiety, depression or another mental illness. And while she’s incredibly proactive about checking on her students, even walking them to the student counseling center, a lot of teachers probably aren’t. Even she’s run into road blocks trying to get students help.

Imagine being a first-year college student with a mental illness and having to navigate the system when you don’t feel like you can get out of bed.

When you’re considering colleges for your high-schooler, are you are you checking out the student health center and asking about mental health services?

Ask these questions and have your child with you to hear the answers:

What services are available? Psychology and psychiatry or just psychology?

How do students get an appointment with a psychologist or psychiatrist?

What are the cost of services?

How long do students wait to get an appointment?

What happens in a psychiatric emergency?

How can you get a welfare check on your child?

Are university staff, especially teachers and professors, given training on how to identify students in crisis and what to do when they think one of their students needs help?

What happens if your child has to withdraw for any health reason? Can they return the next semester or next year? What happens to their tuition?

These questions are just as important as what’s the cost of tuition? What’s the food like? And yes, how good’s the football team?



Author: Nicole Villalpando

Nicole Villalpando writes about families in the Raising Austin blog and the Raising Austin column on Saturdays. She also offers a weekly and monthly family calendar at austin360.com/raisingaustin. She tweets at @raisingaustin.

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