Talking to your student about mental health and stress

Even though your son or daughter is living away from home, you may be the first to notice that they are showing signs of distress. Remember, you know your son or daughter better than almost anyone else. 

Trust your parental instincts; if you feel worried, you should act. The first step is to talk to your child about your concerns.

Be honest but nonjudgmental. Tell your son or daughter why you are concerned, and be specific about what you’ve observed. In some cases, your student may respond with a reasonable explanation of the behavior that has caused your concern. Or they might appreciate the opportunity to talk about the situation and get some help in identifying the problem. Is it a time management issue, a too-heavy course load, a roommate or relationship problem? Defining the problem is sometimes the first step toward coming up with a potential solution.

Keep the lines of communication open. Even if your student isn’t ready to talk right now, it’s important that they know you are ready to listen and be supportive.

Remind your student about available resources. Even if your student doesn’t want to talk, you can mention that MIT Health’s Student Mental Health & Counseling Services helps many MIT students with many different kinds of problems. You can also share information about other campus resources.

If you think your student’s problem is serious, or if you are worried about your student’s health or safety, you should speak with someone at MIT.

  • If you need advice about how to talk with your student: call Student Mental Health and Counseling Services at 617-253-2916, and ask to speak with one of our clinicians. We usually can’t share information about specific students, but we can listen to your concerns, offer advice, and give you information about appropriate campus resources that you can share with your son or daughter.
  • If you believe it is an emergency: Call the MIT Police at (617) 253-1212. They can do a wellbeing check to make sure your student is all right, and if necessary, they can arrange transport to MIT Health or to a hospital emergency room.