College is an important time of transition for students, but also for their family members and loved ones. Each student experiences the transition to college in a unique way. Your student will likely experience a range of emotions as they traverse through this exciting and challenging period of their lives. During this time, your student will face personal, interpersonal challenges and academic pressures, which will deepen their identity development, and they will continue to need your support all along the way.

A student’s transition to college can also be an exciting and difficult adjustment for parents and guardians. It can be especially challenging to balance providing support for your student, while also encouraging their independence. College students will continue to turn to their parents/guardians for guidance, and you have a great impact on your student’s wellness, decision-making, and behavior. Parents/guardians have the opportunity to strengthen their student’s resiliency and positive coping through support, encouragement, and trust. That being said, it will be important to accept that you won’t know every detail of your student’s life. Although your student may never have lived away from you before, it is important to recognize that going to college is an important step in your student’s maturation. The values and ethics you instilled will help your student make good choices and decisions. We recommend that you maintain open lines of communication with your student so that they know they can turn to you as they are faced with new experiences and challenges.

Supporting Your Student’s Mental Health

As parents/guardians and loved ones, you know your student better than anyone else and are more likely to notice important changes that could signal signs of distress. A suggestion from a parental figure can hold significant weight, so your recommendations regarding reaching out to resources for assistance can be very influential. The following information describes signs that can be indications of distress, suggestions on how to respond effectively when your student approaches you with problems, how to make an effective referral, and information about the Counseling Center as an important resource on campus.

Changes in Academic Performance

  • Decline in academic performance
  • Excessive absences from class
  • Confusion or uncertainty about interest, abilities or values

Unusual Behavior

  • Listlessness, lack of energy, complaints about fatigue
  • Marked changes in personal hygiene
  • Impaired speech or disjointed, confused thoughts
  • Aggressive or threatening behavior
  • Extreme mood changes or inappropriate displays of emotion
  • Excessive crying
  • Dramatic weight loss or gain
  • Preoccupation with food or body image
  • Bizarre behavior indicating a loss of contact with reality

Changes in Relationships

  • Death of a family member or close friend
  • Difficulties in romantic relationships
  • Problems with family members, friends or roommates
  • Extreme isolation
  • Becoming too dependent on one relationship at the expense of previously important connections with others

References to Suicide

  • Overt references to suicide
  • Statements of hopelessness or helplessness
  • Indications of prolonged unhappiness
  • Pessimism about the future

How to respond

  • Talk to your student as soon as you notice something unusual, don’t ignore atypical or disturbing behavior.
  • Express your concern in a caring manner and indicate the specific behaviors that are causing you to be concerned.
  • Use “I” language that focuses on what you have noticed or what you are feeling.
  • Talk to your student in private when you both have enough time for a conversation.
  • Listen attentively and avoid being critical or judgmental.
  • Encourage positive action by helping your student define the problem and possible ways of handling it; AVOID THE TEMPTATION TO SOLVE THE PROBLEM FOR THEM.
  • Ask directly how you can best help.
  • Know your limits as a helper. Parents can do a lot, but sometimes professional help is needed.

What Ithaca College CAPS Can Do

CAPS provides individual and group therapy, same-day crisis services, as well as psychoeducational outreach, and consultation.  Learn more about who we are and the services we provide by clicking here.

The treatment model that informs CAPS services is Stepped Care 2.0.

Some of the concerns that are commonly addressed through counseling at CAPS are:

  • Personal Concerns: Stress, anxiety, depression, anger, loneliness, low self-esteem, grief , substance use.
  • Relationship Concerns: Romantic relationship, roommate conflict, family problems, social life
  • Developmental Concerns: Identity (i.e. personal, cultural, spiritual, sexual orientation, gender identity), adjustment to college, healthy lifestyle choices, decisions, life transitions
  • Academic Concerns: Motivation, test and performance anxiety, perfectionism.
  • Other Concerns: Effects of trauma, assault, abuse, body image, disordered eating, suicidal thinking

Sometimes a student’s needs fall outside of the expertise or resources available at CAPS. Learn more about our scope of care.

Student Resources

Self-Help Resources for your student: We have compiled a list of apps that support self-help for a variety of wellness topics and communities, which can be accessed here.

Online Mental Health Screening for your student: CAPS offers access to an online mental health screening tool 

Please Note: this test is completed anonymously and is an informal assessment only. This screening tool does not replace a full assessment by a qualified clinician. 


All student contacts with CAPS services are strictly confidential in accordance with New York state privacy laws. The only exceptions occur in cases of imminent danger to self or others, situations involving child or elder abuse or when there is a court order. Read our Confidentiality Policy.

We ask that you understand we are not able to provide information to you as parents or guardians without the written consent of your student. However, within the limits of confidentiality, we strive to partner with parents, guardians, and loved ones. If you have information you feel is important to let us know, we encourage you to call with the understanding that what you share with us can be shared with your student. We are also able to speak with you in hypotheticals to give you the best idea of what typically happens with students seeking mental health services. Your student can also sign a “Release of Information” to give us permission to talk directly with you.  While protecting client confidentiality, we are also happy to consult with you to obtain the best outcome possible for you and your student.

Records are not available to individuals or agencies, either on or off campus, without a student’s specific written permission. CAPS records are kept separately from academic records.  By law and by professional codes of ethics, confidentiality is only broken by a counselor when 1) the student is in imminent danger of harm to self or others 2) a therapist suspects abuse or neglect of a child under the age of 18 or other dependent or 3) a court orders a record. Even in these cases, we try our best to work with the student in communicating this information to other parties.

If You’re Concerned About Your Student

We can help. Call us at 607-274-3177 to consult with a counselor during business hours: 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM, Monday through Friday. 

After 5:00 PM Monday through Friday and 24 hours a day on weekends and during closures, you can consult with a counselor through our after hours counseling service, ProtoCall, by calling 607-274-3177 and the following the prompts. For more information about after-hours counseling please click here

If your student is not a CAPS client, but you are concerned about their mental health and would like an outreach to them within 72 hours, consider contacting the office of case management by filing an ICare report.

If your concern is urgent, please call the Ithaca College Office of Public Safety 24/7 at 607-274-3333.

Would Your Student Benefit From Counseling?

We consider parents to be an important ally in promoting student success. In that vein, we have some Hints & Tips for you to help identify or decide if your student could benefit from counseling:

  • They feel an overwhelming and prolonged sense of sadness and helplessness in their futures
  • Their emotional difficulties make it hard for them to function day to day. For example, they are unable to concentrate on assignments and their class performance suffers as a result
  • Their actions are harmful to themselves or others
  • They are troubled by emotional difficulties facing family members or close friends
  • They just need someone with whom to talk
  • They have been in counseling and mental health services before and need follow-up

As legal adults, students must make their own appointments for counseling. Appointments are scheduled by phone at 607-274-3177.

How to Support Your Student

Keep in touch: College students will continue to turn to their parents/guardians for guidance, and you have a great impact on your student’s wellness, decision-making, and behavior. Keep checking in on your student’s stress level and mental health.

Encourage self-care and mental health care.

Foster autonomy while also offering support: Parents/guardians have the opportunity to strengthen their student’s resiliency and positive coping through support, encouragement, and trust. It will be important to accept that you won’t know every detail of your student’s life.


Additional Resources:

The Sophie Fund: Parent's Guide to College Student Mental Health:  https://thesophiefund.org/2021/10/30/a-parents-guide-to-college-student-mental-health/

McLean Hospital: A Parent's Guide for College Student Mental Healthhttps://www.mcleanhospital.org/essential/parents-guide-college-student-mental-health