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Information for Parents: Helping a College Student with an Anxiety Disorder (page 3)

— Anxiety and Depression Association of America
Updated on Feb 15, 2011

Where can a college student seek help, especially if they are away from home?

The college counseling center is often the best place for a child to seek help. However, the services offered can vary dramatically based on the school. ADAA's recent study found national universities are three times as likely to offer professionals who specialize in treating anxiety disorders than liberal arts colleges. Of course, this is an overall figure and some national universities may not offer this, while some liberal arts colleges may. It is important that parents know how their child's college counseling center can assist him or her. The next section identifies specific questions a parent can ask a school about the counseling services available on or near campus.

Many online resources are also available to students suffering from an anxiety disorder. These are often a good first step for students to seek help. ADAA's college site - www.gotanxiety.org - is a valuable place to refer students to help them determine whether their anxiety is normal or may be a sign of an anxiety disorder. The web can also be used to help find support groups, chat rooms and message boards for people with anxiety disorders, and more. Most students are savvy at finding this information online after this suggestion is offered to them.

What questions should parents ask a college before their student gets to campus about mental health resources?

During college tours and the college application/admission/decision process, parents often ask questions about everything from financial help to class size to the dining hall options. However, many parents do not ask questions about the mental health resources available to students once they arrive on campus - a major oversight that doesn't occur to many parents with all the other variables involved. This could be one of the most important - if not the most important-factor in the success of a child in college, particularly if he or she has an anxiety disorder or other mental health problem. Parents should ask a school the following questions to assess whether it will adequately meet the needs of a student struggling with stress and anxiety, an anxiety disorder or other mental health problem:

  • Do you offer free counseling sessions to students - individual and/or group? How many and at what frequency? If not, how much do sessions cost?
  • Do you accept private insurance for counseling or psychiatric services?
  • Do you offer health insurance to students? If so, what psychiatric services are covered?
  • Do any employees at your center specialize in treating anxiety disorders?
  • What services specifically for anxiety disorders (i.e., support groups, relaxation techniques, stress management resources, etc.) do you offer?
  • Is there a counselor on call 24 hours a day? If no, what is the process for handling crises after hours?
  • Does the college run a suicide hotline?
  • Under what conditions (if any) would the counseling center notify parents of a student's mental state or treatment?
  • What kind of follow-up do you conduct if a faculty member, parent or friend expresses concern about a student?
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