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Parents and Family


Having your child leave home to attend college can be a big adjustment for both you and your student.

It is a time when your student starts to make their own decisions, learns what it is like to be independent, and also understands the power and consequences of making  those decisions.

College can be a fun, exciting, and wonderful experience, but it can also be challenging, overwhelming, and stressful for your student. As parents and family members, it can be hard to see your student struggle because you care and worry about them and want to see them succeed and be happy.

If you are concerned for your student or feel as though your student is struggling, please do not hesitate to call 974-HELP. We welcome and appreciate communication from parents and family members, as we also want to see your student succeed and have the support they need. We will work with your student to connect them to the appropriate resources that will best address their struggles.

Important Information to Know

FERPA (Family Education Rights and Privacy Act)

FERPA protects student’s privacy and education records, which means that as a university we are limited, by law, on what information we are allowed to share with you or family members about your student. We encourage students to communicate and involve their family as much as possible, but ultimately it is the student’s decision.

Visit the US Department of Education page to see FERPA disclosure exceptions.


If your student is transported to a hospital for either a medical or mental health reason, it is up to them to reach out to you or a family member. Your student can give the hospital or the university permission to talk with you or a family member, but if they choose not to, we will be limited in our ability to contact you.

Signs that a student may be distressed or is struggling:

  • Missing assignments, homework, and tests
  • Numerous or excessive absences
  • Disruptive behavior in class or behavior changes
  • Performance changes (involved to detached behavior in class, passing to failing grades, calm or quiet to verbal or irritable demeanor)
  • Isolating self from others
  • Withdrawing from friends or social events and commitments
  • Increased irritability or anger
  • Tearfulness or becoming easily upset
  • Changes in sleep (not sleeping at all or sleeping all the time)
  • Changes in eating (not eating at all or eating nonstop)
  • Increased drinking or drug use that is interfering with ability to complete daily tasks
  • Bizarre changes in behavior (irrational thinking, euphoric thinking or behavior, hearing things or seeing things that are not there)
  • Disruptive behavior (aggressive, argumentative, irrational)
  • Anxiety or depression that prevents completion of daily tasks such as going to class, eating, sleeping, socializing, and connecting to others
  • Incoherent speech (not able to understand or follow)
  • A “not caring” attitude toward life, grades, friends, family, etc.
  • Decline or change in hygiene
  • Not showering
  • Wearing same or dirty clothes
  • Not caring about appearance (not shaving, brushing hair, or applying makeup as before)

A student who may need immediate assistance

  • Exhibits self-harming behaviors (cutting, burning, scarring)
  • Has suicidal thoughts or attempts (wanting to take own life or thinking everyone would be better if gone, has attempted to harm self)
  • Has thoughts of harming others (direct or indirect)
  • Is involved in an unhealthy relationship (emotionally, physically, or sexually abusive)
  • Displays stalking behaviors (overly focused behavior on an individual; following an individual physically or via social media; excessively contacting an individual when told not to do so; constant need or desire to approach an individual; giving unwanted gifts to an individual)
  • Has been sexually assaulted or is experiencing domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking

What You Can Do

  • If you are concerned or worried for your student, observe a behavior that makes you uncomfortable, or you feel like your student may harm themselves or others, you can call 974-HELP for support. 974-HELP provides help and support to all students, enabling them to succeed and thrive while at the University of Tennessee.
  • If your student’s behavior is an imminent threat to themselves or others (direct plan to harm self or others, or cannot be left unsupervised due to behavior), CALL 911.
  • If there is no immediate threat but you are concerned for your student’s well-being and safety call 974-HELP (4357).

We keep the identity of those who call 974-HELP private unless you express that you want the student to know you reached out to us. Please be aware that sometimes students tell only a few people what they are struggling with, so they may be able to figure out on their own who called to express a concern.

Please Note: Once we meet with a student we may be limited in our ability to share information with families due to FERPA regulations.