Tips for Parents and Loved Ones

Parents and Loved Ones as Helping Resources for Student

University students typically experience a wide range of stressors/issues (i.e. academic, family, social, developmental, financial, work) during their time at the University of Illinois. Parents, family members, friends and others, by virtue of the frequency and nature of their contacts with their loved one are often seen as more logical first contacts for advice and support. More importantly, you are often one of the first and sometimes the only person to recognize that your loved one is not functioning well, academically or personally. Hopefully, the information on this webpage will assist you in handling those who may be in need of mental health services.

Recognizing a Troubled Loved One

Sometimes it is easy to identify those who are struggling and at times their distress is hidden. Here are some obvious and not so obvious signs of distress to look for:

  • Signs of Depression
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Low self-esteem
  • Change in appetite
  • Crying spells
  • Loss of pleasure
  • Sleeping difficulties
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Lack of energy or fatigue
  • Feelings of helplessness/hopelessness
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Signs of Anxiety
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder
  • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Panic Disorder
  • Specific Phobia
  • Social Phobia
  • Test Anxiety
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
  • Academic Performance
  • Drop in class attendance
  • Incapacitating test anxiety
  • Pattern of dropping classes
  • Poor academic performance
  • Severe reactions to poor test/paper grade
  • Unrealistic career goals
  • Chronic indecisiveness or procrastination
  • Academic probation
  • Poor study, reading, and/or comprehension skills
  • Academic dismissal
  • Unusual Behavior
  • Disruptive behavior
  • Aggressive/threatening behavior
  • Dramatic weight change
  • Prolonged or extreme emotionality
  • Significant decline in personal hygiene
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Inappropriate or bizarre conversation
  • Self-injurious behavior
  • Life-Circumstance Concerns
  • Death or serious illness of family member or friend
  • Illness (loss of health)
  • Relationship breakup
  • Parents’ divorce
  • Coming out as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender
  • Cultural oppression/discrimination
  • Difficulty making and keeping friends
  • Shyness
  • Problems with roommates
  • Severe homesickness
  • References to Suicide or Homicide
  • Feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, worthlessness
  • Homicidal threats
  • Preoccupation with deaths
  • Giving away valued possessions
  • Isolation from others
  • Thoughts or threats of suicide or plans for suicide
  • Physical threats to others
  • Other Concerns
  • Alcohol and other drug abuse
  • Physical assault/abuse
  • Internet usage (i.e. pornography, gambling)
  • Sexual assault/abuse

Your Role

Although these signs and symptoms may serve as warning signs that a loved one is in distress, most by themselves do not necessarily mean that they have a serious problem that warrants psychological help. (References to suicide or homicide are obvious exceptions.) In general, the more of these behaviors you observe, the more cause there is for concern, particularly if these behaviors persist over a period of time. These are signals that suggest you should consider expressing your concern to your loved one and possibly referring them to mental health services.

Referring a Loved One

Referral may be made to mental health professionals, deans, housing personnel, academic advisers, and the like. When you are faced with a loved one whom you feel you cannot help, for whatever reason, it is helpful to know about the campus resources so that you can make appropriate referrals. If you are referring someone for professional counseling, knowing the services of the Counseling Center will help you. If you are unsure about the services of the Counseling Center or would like to consult about a particular loved one, please feel free to contact the Center.

Emergency Situation

If there is a risk of harm, please call 911.

The Counseling Center and the McKinley Mental Health Department collaborate with the Champaign County Mental Health Center to provide the university with emergency services for psychological matters. Psychological Emergency Services are available 24 hours a day and focuses on problems that need to be addressed immediately.

If the emergency occurs during the day, call the Counseling Center at 217-333-3704 to speak to a counselor about options. 

If the emergency occurs after business hours or the individual won’t see a counselor, can’t be found, or refuses contact with others, call the Crisis Line at 217-359-4141 91 and you will get a consultation with a mental health professional.


Both the Counseling Center and McKinley Mental Health adhere to state laws and ethical standards that require that the information resulting from counseling is held in strict confidence. Unless a student signs a release of information, neither agency will acknowledge to outside parties (e.g. parents, friends, faculty/staff) that a student is being seen or has been seen at the agency. Exceptions are made when there is a clear and present danger to self or others, apparent child abuse, or in a response to a court order as prescribed by the State of Illinois Mental Health Confidentiality Act.

Counseling Services

Counseling Center

Information: 217-333-3704
Location: Room 206, Student Services Building, 610 East John Street, Champaign, IL
Hours: 8 a.m.- 5 p.m.,  Monday through Friday

Appointment: Scheduled for same day.

During Fall 2020, we will offer appointments via Zoom PHI to protect the health and privacy of students and staff. Please call with questions rather than physically coming to the Counseling Center.

McKinley Mental Health

Information: 217-333-2705
Location: 3rd Floor McKinley Health Center, 1109 South Lincoln, Urbana, IL
Hours: 8 a.m.- 5 p.m., Monday through Friday

Appointment: Scheduled in advance.