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Mental Health & Emotional Wellbeing

Gannett Health Services
110 Ho Plaza
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853-3101

Tel: 607 255-5155
Fax: 607 255-0269
Email

"At Cornell we work hard, often under the pressure
of multiple deadlines and our own high expectations,
but we also recognize the paramount importance
of physical and emotional health
as the foundation for scholarly pursuits."

- President David Skorton

Common challenges

Parents of today's college students have seen troublesome headlines related to college mental health issues such as stress management, depression, and suicide. Although Cornellians are often among the best and brightest in the nation, the challenges they face regarding mental wellbeing are shared by college students everywhere.

You may be worried about how your student will handle the challenges of life at Cornell. You may question when the normal "ups and downs" of college adjustment become something more serious, warranting concern or intervention. We urge you to trust your instincts and encourage your student to reach out to our professional staff for assistance when needs arise. Cornell is a caring community, full of staff, faculty, and other students who can—and do—help.

College students do experience regular stressors, but these challenges typically can be managed with self-care strategies and/or a little support from others. Cornell students tend to check in with their families regularly, so you are likely to be one of the first to know if your student is having trouble (e.g., if his or her thoughts or emotions are interfering with the formation of relationships, academic performance, or engagement in campus activities).

What you can do

  1. Keep up the dialogue. Talk about college stressors; and discuss ways to manage them as they occur. Transition times, like the beginning of a college year, are especially stressful, so you might also find it helpful to redefine what "success" looks like (i.e., not just academic achievement, but also learning about oneself, making friends, and enjoying Cornell).
  2. Encourage your student to reach out. In times of trouble, students usually turn to family and friends, but there are times when getting an outside perspective (e.g., from a professional counselor or the Academic Advising and Student Support Office in your student's college) can be particularly useful. At Cornell, we consider it a sign of maturity and strength for a student to recognize when help is needed and to seek it out. Having family support makes this task much easier. Encourage your student to view our campus community as a supportive environment with numerous resources. He or she should understand that early intervention will prevent negative thoughts and feelings from escalating, and result in less time lost from academic work and quicker rebound/recovery.
  3. Learn more about Cornell's support services.  This website is full of information about Cornell services that can benefit your student.

Urgent concern

If ever you have urgent concerns about your student's physical or mental health, please call us. An on call provider is available for telephone consultation even when Gannett is closed. Encourage your student to give us a call; or call us yourself.

Ongoing care

If your son or daughter currently has a mental health condition requiring ongoing care, please encourage him/her to talk with a counselor at Gannett Health Services. Whether your student is receiving care at home or with a campus provider, your student should enlist assistance in making a treatment plan and exploring the campus network of support.

Background reading

The Jed Foundation, a national organization dedicated to reducing emotional distress and preventing suicide among college students, has excellent resources for parents, including:

Find out what the Wall Street Journal said about Cornell's approach to mental health in its article entitled "Safety School: Bucking Privacy Concerns, Cornell Acts as Watchdog."

NPR's Talk of the Nation explores Cornell's approach to supporting the mental health of students with Dr. Greg Eells, Director of Counseling and Psychological Services.

Learn about Cornell's Council on Mental Health and Welfare.

The Mayo Clinic offers this article entitled "College depression: What parents need to know."

In summary

No one wants to think about the difficulties that may arise when a student is just beginning a college career, but addressing mental health issues directly with your student will help him or her to reach out as needs arise. As Cornell's President Skorton has said, "If you learn anything at Cornell, learn to ask for help."


Resources
Cornell panelists discuss 1st year student stress
Coping with grief 

This page discusses student grief and loss following the death of a peer

A faculty handbook

"Recognizing and Responding to Students in Distress" (pdf) is a comprehensive resource developed for Cornell faculty. Learn more