Supporting Your Student's Mental Health

Small Tips for Starting a Conversation
January 11, 2024

Over winter break, encourage your student to talk to you about how the semester went, how they coped with a new or busy schedule and what goals they have for next semester.

Encouraging your student to talk about how the semester went is a healthy way to also discuss their mental health. Maybe your student struggled with worries around meeting new friends, test anxiety or potentially seasonal depression. Talking with your student about any of these topics can be beneficial, even if the conversation is stressful.

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A Safe and Comfortable Place

Mental health can be a difficult topic to bring up, so if you decide to ask your student questions about how their semester went, it’s always helpful to talk in a safe, private and comfortable environment. That may include a common space like the living room, your student’s room, the car on the way home from college. Whatever feels comfortable for your student.

Asking them where they want to talk is the first step. From there, it's best to ask open-ended questions so your student is encouraged to expand on their thoughts. Some examples to consider: How was college this semester? What did you enjoy the most? What did you struggle with? What are your friends like there? How do you feel about your major? What new experiences did you have? Talk about the good and the bad.

  • Encourage your student to talk about their social life, classes, relationships, or living in the dorms. But also ask the tougher questions about their emotions and what they may be struggling with.
  • Show interest in what your child is sharing and ask more questions. Be excited for them or nervous with them.
  • Most often, they aren't looking for advice. They want to feel heard and validated. But ask them if they would like you to offer any advice. Then, you know what to provide to be supportive and helpful in that moment.
  • Understand that everyone will experience ups and downs, good times and hard times. This is a normal human experience. Allow them to experience those things with your support.

You may not have all the answers for your student at that moment. But actively listening to them and supporting them is usually what they need after completing a long and stressful semester.

The Student Counseling Center

UW-Stout's Student Counseling Center provides many different resources for students including individual, group, and couples counseling, same-day crisis appointments, Zen Zone for relaxation, self-help tips and our self-help platform You.uwstout.edu.

  • Your student can talk with our Student Counseling Center staff for free professional help.
  • The office is located on the 4th floor of Bowman Hall.
  • Your student can contact the Student Counseling Center at 715-232-2468.
  • Students can schedule an appointment by calling, stopping in, or online through the homepage.

As always, if your student is in imminent danger to themselves or someone else, call 911 or the 24-hour mental health crisis line at 1-888-552-6642.


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