Should parents be informed of their child's mental health by uni's?

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Poll: Would you give consent for uni's to contact your parent/trusted person in a mental health crisis?
Yes - my parent/carer (143)
33.18%
Yes - a trusted person (110)
25.52%
No (123)
28.54%
I'm not sure (55)
12.76%
BlinkyBill
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#1
Report Thread starter 1 month ago
#1
Content warning: suicide, mental health

Heading off to university is a big life event for most young people. Loads more independence, more responsibility, lots of new stuff to get used to.

It can also be really tough if you're managing an existing mental health condition, or if you develop poor mental health while you're at uni.

Over the years, there has been a lot of discussion about whether parents/carers should be informed by the university, if they become aware of a child who may be at risk of a mental health crisis.

Advocates like James Murray, who lost his son Ben to suicide in 2018 has since worked closely with Bristol Uni to develop an opt-in preventative service, where a student can give consent for the uni to contact a parent or nominated 'trusted person' in the event of mental health concerns.

Both the Office for Students and Universities UK have released best practice guidelines for universities in relation to suicide safety. OfS says uni's should:

Establish a policy on information sharing with family and friends and ensure that disclosure and consent are considered appropriately and sensitively.
UUK is developing a consensus statement and guidance on when and how information should be shared with family and friends when students are at risk of serious self harm or suicide. It will set out that where there is genuine concern for the safety of the student, it is good practice to involve family and friends in their support. It will also emphasise that wherever possible students should be at the centre of any decision about their care and that any decision to involve wider networks without the specific consent of the student at risk must be based on appropriate clinical judgement.

What's your opinion about informing parents/trusted friends about concerns relating to students' mental health?

Is there a right or wrong way to go about involving personal support networks outside of the university to support a student?

Please reach out for support if this discussion raises any concerns for you. Papyrus and Student Space both have phone, text and email services to help.

Moderation note: This is a very sensitive topic, so please keep all discussion respectful and within TSR guidelines.
Last edited by BlinkyBill; 1 month ago
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Admit-One
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#2
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#2
A very contentious issue. Most students are young adults and need to be equipped with tools and services to begin looking after their own wellbeing. However unis have a transitional role to play, rather than just washing their hands and saying "you're an adult now".

My feeling is that all unis should operate an 'opt in' approach, but that it should be strongly encouraged.
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gjd800
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#3
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#3
(Original post by Admit-One)
A very contentious issue. Most students are young adults and need to be equipped with tools and services to begin looking after their own wellbeing. However unis have a transitional role to play, rather than just washing their hands and saying "you're an adult now".

My feeling is that all unis should operate an 'opt in' approach, but that it should be strongly encouraged.
I agree. I have worked at a department where a young person that I had previously taught went on to end their own life. Their parents were not aware of their troubles and that was, to me, absolutely harrowing. Things should have gone differently. Awful.
Last edited by gjd800; 1 month ago
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1secondsofvamps
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#4
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#4
The only problem is that, even if students did opt-in, not everyone has parents/family members that "believe" in mental illnesses. Especially those from certain race or cultures where they can be ignorant towards mental health.
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Funtimes01_
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#5
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#5
Yes. Although most young people at Uni are between the ages of 18 to early-mid 20s (not mature students, but classified legally as adults), if they are exhibiting depressive or even potential nihilistic behaviour, the University should immediately put them in touch with a counsellor which can help them. Many young people are terrified of peoples, employers and parents/guardians reactions for things like depression, manic depression, malevolent OCD, manic anxiety and suicidal tendencies as the reactions can range from minimal to having explosive consequences. Heard of cases at Universities of students committing suicide and the harrowing long term discord it struck in the University community was heart-breaking, as well as those that were close to those students. Believe it's something ridiculous such as on average 1 UK student dies by suicide every four days. So yes, if a University professor, lecturer, or member of staff see's or hears a student exhibiting any majorly concerning mental behaviours, something needs to be done. You could be saving a life and saving other peoples as well
Last edited by Funtimes01_; 1 month ago
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londonmyst
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#6
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#6
I support unis offering an opt in approach that lists at least one adult contact in the uk nominated by the student with permission to divulge their information unless the matter involves any criminal allegations or something connected to sex/abortion.
But there should be no automatic presumption in favour of parents, blood relatives or spouses as automatic next of kin in relation to mental health issues.
Maybe encourage all healthy students to consider setting up an ordinary Power of Attorney in relation to health & welfare issues that will last for the duration of their degree/uni studies.
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artful_lounger
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#7
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#7
I think unis have a duty of care to notify a healthcare provider if necessary, but I don't think that ought to necessarily extend to notifying their parents or similar next of kin/nominated person, except where explicitly agreed to by the student. In some cases involvement of the student's family/other contact may exacerbate the situation depending on exactly the cause of their mental health issues...
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ashvinsingh
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#8
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#8
Not parents as some people may not feel comfortable talking about their mental health issues with their family, a trusted person would be a good idea but not sure how many people would opt in. The university should definitely let the students general practice know though so the medical professions can offer expert health advice and refer if needed/ the university should refer the student to a counsellor.
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Cancelled Alice
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#9
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#9
A work place or a landlord wouldn’t pass this kind of information on to parents, not that they should be models for how society works.
I think that in theory informing parents with prior agreement could be a good thing sometimes. I wouldn’t want the the consent process for this to look like a tick box on a form that most people wouldn’t read through throughly. Some people students will have legitimate reasons for wanting to keep information about their mental health private, including personal preference and not necessarily something to do with religion or stigma or something else along those lines.

I might be talking absolute rubbish but I thought healthcare providers can inform your next of kin about things relating to risky situations under certain circumstances. If a university is aware that a student is at risk, they should refer them to mental health services. MH services are there to deal with these types of situations, they should be the ones making decisions like this.
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issawrap
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#10
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#10
Nope. Well not for me, personally.
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Honey57
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#11
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#11
Yes because it prevents death and parents are still parents even if you’re 20 or 22 so they should know as their children’s health is important to them. Also, they're still only a couple of years after turning 18 so it’s still a time where adolescence is forming into adulthood. It doesn’t happen automatically when you turn 18.
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0ptics
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#12
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#12
This question is tough as it’s phrased as a generalisation of what’s going to happen in every single mental health case. We have to consider personal situations - some would rely on parents and regret it, some would rely on parents and not regret it, and some wouldn’t rely on parents at all. We can’t speak for everyone. Incidentally, I’ve noticed on the poll that there’s a “yes - a trusted person” option which could maybe be a better alternative to the uni contacting parents.

All of the above is my opinion.
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PQ
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#13
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#13
All universities should have clear opt in third party consent. Where I work we’ve had that since 2014 - with students able to update their consent whenever they want (and asked to review their choices every academic year). It’s pretty shocking that universities like Bristol still weren’t doing this in 2018 - never mind that some universities still don’t bother.

But these opt in systems should specify which topics can be discussed with third parties (for example we have the option to grant permission for discussion of wellbeing, academic issues and finance to different people - plus the ability for students to write in specific instructions).

But it’s worth pointing out that alongside this system we also have a setup to alert staff to explicitly not talk to specific family members (and in some cases report contact from those people to the police where there’s been an ruling barring contact) where a student has informed us of abusive or harassing behaviour (and we won’t even confirm that a person is a student without third party consent).

Wellbeing isn’t a simple case of assuming that parents are always acting in the best interests of their adult offspring.
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skylark2
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#14
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#14
(Original post by londonmyst)
I support unis offering an opt in approach that lists at least one adult contact in the uk nominated by the student with permission to divulge their information unless the matter involves any criminal allegations or something connected to sex/abortion.
But there should be no automatic presumption in favour of parents, blood relatives or spouses as automatic next of kin in relation to mental health issues.
Maybe encourage all healthy students to consider setting up an ordinary Power of Attorney in relation to health & welfare issues that will last for the duration of their degree/uni studies.
I agree with this, and I know this is a student website, but I don't see why it should be purely limited to students. Universities are huge employers. I think it should be an opt in system which is offered to all university members, both students and staff. (And, of course, there's a big subset of older postgraduate students who are also staff at some level.)
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The_Lonely_Goatherd
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#15
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#15
I've been on the receiving end of this (uni phoning my emergency contact - my sister, in my case - as well as my hospital, because I sent the Mental Health Adviser a really scary email and the uni person best placed to check in on me was on leave) and tbh, I thought it was a good and fair call for them to make. I think it's good to have systems in place for emergencies/life-or-death situations but I agree with what people have said about parents often not being the best people to call in that kinda situation. So I think a system where you can name anyone as an emergency contact, with additional forms if you're a disabled student and the uni need extra info/clarification, would be quite a good one :yep:
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harrysbar
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#16
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#16
(Original post by 1secondsofvamps)
The only problem is that, even if students did opt-in, not everyone has parents/family members that "believe" in mental illnesses. Especially those from certain race or cultures where they can be ignorant towards mental health.
That may be true - and I sympathise with people whose family don't believe in mental illness, but it doesn't mean it isn't worth the uni having a system in place just because some families won't respond well to the call.

It would be up to the individual student whether they want to opt in to the scheme or not, but I hope the majority of students would have families who would want to be informed if their child was exhibiting worrying signs of suffering from a mental illness.
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BlinkyBill
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#17
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#17
I just wanted to say thank you for your really considered and thoughtful responses to this thread, everyone. It's really interesting to read your points of view on such an important issue. :heart:
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is.jenk
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#18
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#18
As someone who struggles with their mental health and is hoping to attend university next year, this post was very hard to answer.
My initial answer was no which I selected on the poll as I don't want my parents to know that I am struggling as I don' know whether they would believe me and telling them would be scary.
However, sometimes I want someone to know and someone to help as sometimes I am at a really low point. So many it would be good for a parent or a trusted adult to know as they could offer support. But, I would not know how a parent might act. One of the things I am worried about is that my parents would not understand and would not take it seriously until it has either gone too far or I have been properly diagnosed.
Maybe we need someone to talk to the parents in order for them to understand how to help us and how they should react etc.
I like the idea of a system with different stages as well as the opt in ideas

I don't know it is one of those conflicting arguments where everyone has different views

I just know that when I am really struggling, I want someone who will understand and just be there (not necessarily a parent tho). Maybe that way I will be okay as sometimes everything gets too much.
Last edited by BlinkyBill; 1 month ago
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BlinkyBill
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#19
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#19
(Original post by is.jenk)
As someone who struggles with their mental health and is hoping to attend university next year, this post was very hard to answer.
My initial answer was no which I selected on the poll as I don't want my parents to know that I am struggling as I don' know whether they would believe me and telling them would be scary.
However, sometimes I want someone to know and someone to help as sometimes I am at a really low point. So many it would be good for a parent or a trusted adult to know as they could offer support. But, I would not know how a parent might act. One of the things I am worried about is that my parents would not understand and would not take it seriously until it has either gone too far or I have been properly diagnosed.
Maybe we need someone to talk to the parents in order for them to understand how to help us and how they should react etc.
I like the idea of a system with different stages as well as the opt in ideas

I don't know it is one of those conflicting arguments where everyone has different views

I just know that when I am really struggling, I want someone who will understand and just be there (not necessarily a parent tho). Maybe that way I will be okay as sometimes everything gets too much.
I'm really sorry to hear how tough things have been for you. I'm so glad you felt you could share your experience here and thank you for offering your point of view. It's so valid.

Please do remember there are support organisations who may be able to help, including via webchat, text message or email (especially if you don't have an environment to have a voice/video conversation in your home).

In relation to starting uni next year, have you seen UCAS's advice about declaring your mental health status? Just thought I'd share in case it's helpful for you.

I hope things get better for you soon.
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Desideri
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#20
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#20
If it’s opt-in and completely optional, that may help some students so I’d be okay with that. My university already has this system.

However, I have not opted in. I do not have a good relationship with my parents. I could be in danger if my parents found out about some things that I have discussed with therapists. If there was any chance that the university would tell my parents about my mental health, I would be completely unable to access well-being services. I know I’m not the only student in this position. Losing confidentiality would put these students at higher risk, as we’d no longer be able to get any mental health support.
Last edited by Desideri; 1 month ago
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