For Loved Ones

How might I know if my student is experiencing issues related to emotional distress?

Loved ones are frequently among the first to notice when a student is acting differently or experiencing distress. In addition to paying attention to any emotional or behavioral changes, it may also be helpful to reflect upon ways that your student acted when something was wrong in the past.
Signs of emotional distress may include:

  • Lack of enthusiasm about various aspects of student life
  • Withdrawal from activities or friends
  • Grade problems
  • Significant changes in sleep or eating patterns
  • Persistent depressed or anxious mood

What can I do if I suspect that my student is experiencing emotional distress?

  • Express your observations and concerns in an open and nonjudgmental manner.
  • Offer to help your student connect with available resources.
  • Let your student know that free online screenings are available to help students find out if they need assistance.
  • Refer to the Assisting the Emotionally Distressed Student Guide for information regarding warning signs and symptoms of emotional distress, as well as tips for broaching these topics with your student.

What mental health services are available on campus?

  • On-campus mental health services are available at University Counseling Services. Students may call 414-229-4716 to make an appointment (weekday business hours, only). University Counseling Services is located on the 5th Floor of the Northwest Quadrant.
  • Counselors from University Counseling Services provide brief, walk-in consultations for UWM students at several locations around the UWM campus through the “Let’s Talk” program.

University Counseling Services offers confidential short-term services. These include individual counseling; couples or relationship counseling; alcohol and drug screening/counseling; eating disorder screening/counseling; crisis intervention; and psychiatry services. Students who are currently enrolled for class credits at UWM and have paid the student segregated fee are eligible for services at no cost. With the exception of urgent situations, students are encouraged to phone the Norris Health Center to make an appointment with University Counseling Services in advance. University Counseling Services can be reached at 414-229-4716.

  • For students who have urgent needs that are not life threatening, brief screening sessions are provided to help stabilize the situation and determine what further services may be necessary. A University Counseling Services counselor is on-call from 8:00 am – 4:00 pm Monday through Thursday and from 9:00 am – 4:00 pm on Friday. An appointment is not necessary, but there may be a wait to be seen if the counselor is occupied with another student at the time of your arrival.

The “Let’s Talk” Program provides brief, walk-in consultations for UWM students with counselors from University Counseling Services at several locations around the UWM campus. It is free, and no appointment is necessary. Consultations are informal, friendly, and confidential. Students are seen on a first come, first served basis for about 20 minutes. For more information about the Let’s Talk program, including times and locations, visit https://uwm.edu/norris/counseling/lets-talk/

Who can my student contact if he or she experiences a mental health emergency?

  • On-campus mental health services are available at University Counseling Services of Norris Health Center. Students may call 414-229-4716 to make an appointment (weekday business hours, only).
  • When University Counseling Services is closed, students may contact the Milwaukee County Crisis Line at 414-257-7222 or Columbia-St. Mary’s Emergency Services at 414-291-1200.
  • For life threatening emergencies call 911 or UWM Police 414-229-9911 (9-911 campus phone)

University Counseling Services offers confidential short-term services. These include individual counseling; couples or relationship counseling; alcohol and drug screening/counseling; eating disorder screening/counseling; crisis intervention; and psychiatry services. Students who are currently enrolled for class credits at UWM and have paid the student segregated fee are eligible for services at no cost. With the exception of urgent situations, students are encouraged to phone the Norris Health Center to make an appointment with University Counseling Services in advance. University Counseling Services can be reached at 414-229-4716.

  • For students who have urgent needs that are not life threatening, brief screening sessions are provided to help stabilize the situation and determine what further services may be necessary. A University Counseling Services counselor is on-call from 8:00 am – 4:00 pm Monday through Thursday and from 9:00 am – 4:00 pm on Friday. An appointment is not necessary, but there may be a wait to be seen if the counselor is occupied with another student at the time of your arrival.

For urgent matters that arise when University Counseling Services is closed, students may contact:
Milwaukee County Crisis line at 414-257-7222 or
Columbia-St. Mary’s Emergency Services at 414-291-1200.

These crisis lines are answered twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

For life threatening emergencies call 911 or UWM Police 414-229-9911 (9-911 campus phone).

What can I do if I suspect that my student is experiencing problems as a result of alcohol or other drug use?

Behaviors of concern may include:

  • Continued use despite repeatedly experiencing problems as a result, such as fights or arguments with family or friends; interference with school, work, and other important responsibilities; or taking risks or getting seriously injured while under the influence
  • Using alcohol or other drugs before class or work
  • Alcohol or other drug use becoming more important than anything else – such as school, work, friends, or family
  • Tendency to avoid events where substances will not be readily available or a propensity to consume quantities of alcohol or other drugs before attending these events
  • Increased tolerance and difficulty cutting down or controlling level of use
  • Becoming angry, defensive, or annoyed when their use of alcohol or other substances is discussed

If you are worried about your student’s substance use:

  • Express your observations and concerns in an open and nonjudgmental manner.
  • Refer to ways in which their substance use might be impacting their quality of life or stand in conflict with their known personal values.
  • Offer to help your student connect with available resources:
    • e-Check Up to Go: An anonymous online alcohol assessment and personalized feedback tool that allows you to reflect on your use of alcohol and consider how it may affect your health and other things that are important to you. Visit www.e-CHUG.uwm.edu
    • BASICS: Brief Alcohol Screening & Intervention for College Students (BASICS) offers students who use alcohol or other drugs an in-person, confidential and non-judgmental opportunity to explore their use, receive personalized feedback, and consider strategies to reduce the risk for negative consequences. For more information call 414-229-3712 or visit uwm.edu/basics to register.
    • Counseling Services: University Counseling, located in Northwest Quadrant, provides personal counseling, including confidential alcohol and other drug assessment, brief counseling, crisis counseling and referral assistance. Call 414-229-4716 to schedule an appointment.  For more information visit http://uwm.edu/norris/counseling/.
    • Make Good Decisions (MGD) Outreach and Training programs: Interactive presentations/training sessions for student leaders and other student groups who are interested in learning more about alcohol/other drug issues on campus and strategies for avoiding negative consequences of substance use. Contact Susan Cushman at 414-229-5836 to schedule a program.

While most college students who use or experience problems as a result of alcohol or other drugs are not necessarily at the point of being addicted to these substances, some may still display behaviors that cause individuals close to them to become concerned about their substance use. By saying something, you may help your friend avoid consequences such as poor academic/job performance, unhealthy personal relationships, legal problems, and health concerns.

More about available resources:

  • e-Check Up to Go: An anonymous online alcohol assessment and personalized feedback tool that allows you to reflect on your use of alcohol and consider how it may affect your health and other things that are important to you. Visit www.e-CHUG.uwm.edu. If you would like to discuss your feedback results, please call 414-229-3712 for a free and confidential appointment.
  • BASICS: Brief Alcohol Screening & Intervention for College Students (BASICS) offers students who use alcohol or other drugs an in-person, confidential and non-judgmental opportunity to explore their use, receive personalized feedback, and consider strategies to reduce the risk for negative consequences. For more information call 414-229-3712 or visit uwm.edu/basics to register.
  • AODA Treatment Services: University Counseling Services of Norris Health Center offers voluntary, short-term Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse (AODA) evaluation and treatment services that are not mandated for the student. These services include AODA assessments for students who have questions or concerns regarding their use of alcohol or other substances. For those students desiring treatment of an identified substance use problem, short-term weekly counseling sessions are also offered. For students whose substance use problems require more intensive AODA services, referrals to community resources are provided. University Counseling does NOT offer medications designed specifically for drug detoxification or abstinence maintenance. Call University Counseling Services at 414-229-4716 to schedule an appointment.
  • Prescription Drug Drop Box: A prescription drug drop box is conveniently located at the UWM Police Department at 3410 N. Maryland Ave. for the proper disposal of unneeded prescription medications.

What mental health concerns do UWM students experience?

Students receive counseling for many different concerns, including homesickness, difficulty adjusting to college, loneliness, stress, relationship difficulties, self-esteem, eating/body image struggles, alcohol/drug abuse, and more.

How can I help protect the emotional health of my college student?

  • Help your student come to campus prepared to take charge of his/her physical and emotional health and well-being. Work with your student to develop a plan for how they will recognize their personal symptoms of stress and distress, manage potential stressors, and obtain treatment and support when needed.
  • Check in with your student frequently. Although college is a time of increased independence for many, having a strong support network is an important aspect of maintaining emotional well-being.
  • Know how to recognize that your student may be experiencing issues related to emotional distress. Do not hesitate to express any concerns in a direct, open, and nonjudgmental manner, and offer to help your student connect with appropriate resources.
  • Familiarize yourself with campus resources, including health and academic support services.