Talking About Mental Health

Here are some strategies to spot signs of mental health crises, as well as how to thoughtfully address them and access resources here at Widener.  

Recognize Changes in Behavior  

You know your student best; if you note one or more of these behaviors, share your concerns with them—and a medical professional.

  • Feeling very sad or withdrawn for more than two weeks

  • Change in sleeping patterns

  • Increased absence in class

  • Severe, out-of-control risk-taking behaviors  

  • Sudden, overwhelming fear for no reason  

  • Not eating, throwing up, or using laxatives to lose weight  

  • Seeing, hearing, or believing things that are not real  

  • Repeatedly and excessively using drugs or alcohol  

  • Extreme difficulty in concentrating or staying still  

  • Intense worries or fears that get in the way of daily activities  

  • Trying to harm oneself or planning to do so  

Stay in (Meaningful) Contact  

When discussing your student’s mental health, the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI), recommends giving them the opportunity to speak first. As the conversation progresses, be sure to remain calm but honest when it's your turn to share.  

“These discussions may be difficult if your child is trying to assert their independence and maintain control,” NAMI notes. “But establishing open communications and learning to compromise can be critical to healthy relationships.”  

To keep an open dialogue, don’t rely too heavily on texting or social media, which don’t convey tone of voice or body language. Instead, plan phone calls, video chats, trips home, and if possible, visits to campus.  

If you're not sure how to begin your conversation, here are a few questions to prompt dialogue with your student: 

  • If you need to talk to someone about mental health support while you're on campus are you comfortable reaching out? 
  • How can I best support your mental health as you begin the school year?
  • What are some goals/priorities you have for the school year? How can I support you or provide accountability for your mental health/self-care as you work towards these goals?
  • What signs should I watch out for if you are having difficulties managing your stress or mental health? 
  • When was the last time you experienced something stressful? What did you find to be the most helpful

Model Healthy Coping Mechanisms  

Confidence, self-worth, and resilience are among the most important tools we use to overcome tough situations. That’s why helping your student build these skills will boost their likelihood of success in college and beyond.  

Positive self-talk is another vital skill. According to NAMI, you can demonstrate it by showing gratitude in response to difficulties and reframing negative scenarios.  

These skills—and your support—will help your student effectively take on the inevitable stresses of forming relationships, academic pressures, and career planning.  

Utilize Widener’s Mental Health Services  

Our community is dedicated to ensuring each person feels like they belong here—because they do. Providing access to the health-and-wellness resources they need is part of that commitment.   

Widener's on-campus Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) offers individual counseling and psychotherapy services. Full-time undergraduate and graduate students who meet the eligibility criteria can schedule sessions each academic year at no additional cost. The center also partners with offices across campus to support student wellbeing and collaborates with off-campus treatment providers for additional services.

CAPS welcomes parents and guardians to reach out; while the details of each student's treatment are confidential, CAPS staff is available to discuss your concerns and review on- and off-campus resources.

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“We recognize the uniqueness of each student who arrives at Widener and deeply appreciate the path that brought them here. We aim to help each student seeking our services to identify their strengths and areas of potential growth to strengthen their persistence and enhance their coping skills. Our staff of licensed mental health clinicians works collaboratively with our partners across Widener's campus to build opportunities for connection and belonging along their personal and professional journey." - Jennifer Horowitz, Counseling and Psychological Services director

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Widener is a Proud JED Campus

Widener University's partnership with The Jed Foundation (JED) will place greater emphasis on mental health at the university and solidify Widener’s commitment to this vital component of well-being. 

JED will work with the university to develop a customized strategic plan that will guide the university in implementing tools, strategies, and techniques designed to improve student mental health and increase the sense of belonging and connection at Widener.