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Summer Solstice 2019

The David Cutler Conservatory
Exploring Mental Health Series

July 23, 2019

Should I Involve My Parents in My Psychiatric Treatment?

If you are diagnosed with a mental illness while on campus, it is up to you whether to involve your parents in your treatment. Maybe you’re not sure how to tell them or are afraid to bring it up, but parents can be less judgmental than you may think. As you navigate your mental illness, it’s important that you put your comfort first. Talking to people who support you is what matters most. If you feel your parents can be supportive, talking with them specifically – not only a therapist and/or a friend – can give you a significant advantage in recovery.

Find What Works Best for You

First of all, don’t wait – get the help you need right away. You can always talk to your parents or friends after you’ve figured out what type of treatment format works best for you.

Colleges often offer on-campus counseling, a health center, or other approaches that make the college transition easier. Explore all of these. On-campus options may be free or offered at a lower cost than off-campus counselors or health centers. But you may opt for an off-campus option anyway. For students who juggle class and work schedules, off-campus counseling may provide more flexible hours. If you don’t have transportation, consider checking out online counseling.

You might choose to include medication as part of your treatment as well.

Peer groups tackle stigmatized issues and act as safe spaces. Whether you decide on a cultural group, a leadership group or otherwise, many peer groups invite all students to join at any time. These groups are especially helpful when your friends and family are far away.

If your mental illness has become more severe, do some research on inpatient and outpatient programs as well as residential treatment communities. These options are more immersive and can help set the course for a successful college career with your new diagnosis, even if a leave of absence is necessary at first.

How Your Parents Can Help

While any of these treatment formats can be integral to healing, your parents can play a critical role, too. Be open and honest. How much detail you get into is entirely up to you but tell them what your diagnosis is and how symptoms have been affecting you. In fact, if that’s as far as the first conversation goes, that’s okay.

Even if you’re not ready to address ways your parents can support you emotionally, there are some very practical ways they can help.

  • Your parents can tell you if there’s a history of mental illness in your family. Mental illnesses can be hereditary, and understanding a family member’s mental health struggles might help you in your recovery.
  • When you’re home for breaks, your parents can help set you up for success. If they know your common mental health pitfalls, they can be proactive, recognize what’s happening and take action to bring you out of slumps.
  • If it looks like you may need to take a break from college, your parents can contact your college and make those arrangements, lessening the burden for you.

Your Rights

If you want your parents to play a more active role in your treatment such as speaking directly with your provider, be sure to sign a FERPA release of information. If you choose, your family may be able to attend counseling sessions for moral support.

If you do not want your parents to have access to your records, FERPA protects your school medical information and, if you visit a provider outside of campus, HIPAA guards your records. You can choose who gets to see your records, and you can disallow others.

Consider which type of treatment works best for you, take into account your rights and determine the ways your family and friends can help you along your journey – emotionally and practically.

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