Carnegie Mellon University

I am a family member concerned for a CMU student.

Checking on the Well-Being of a Student

Family members concerned because their student has been out of communication for a significant length of time should call either the Student Life Suite at 412-268-2142 or the Office of the Dean of Students at 412-268-2075, so that the appropriate housefellow or college liaison can help to locate your student.

Family members with strong reason to believe that their student’s physical safety is immediately in danger should contact:

  • If student resides on campus, call CMU Police at 412-268-2323.
  • If student resides off campus, call Pittsburgh Police at 911 (if calling from Pittsburgh area) or 412-255-2927 (if calling from out of town).

A Guide for Family Members

College students are moving through new experiences and learning about themselves along the way. These experiences and lessons are an important part of the process of maturation. As students change and grow they will likely encounter struggles. While this is a natural part of the process of becoming an adult, students might feel confused, anxious, overwhelmed, or distressed at times. Students benefit greatly by feeling supported and understood throughout the good times and the times of struggle.

Here are a few suggestions on how to support your student while at CMU:

  • Stay connected. Listen to your student. Often students simply need to talk about what's going on in their lives and want a familiar, trusted person to listen.
  • Ask questions. Show that you're interested in what your student is doing, how they are adjusting, and what they are learning. Your student may not want to talk in depth each time, but they will know you are there for them when they need someone to talk to.
  • Allow your student to set the agenda for some of your conversations. If he or she needs help or support, make room for touchy subjects to arise and be handled calmly.
  • Expect change. The later stages of adolescent development might include changes in the nature of your relationship with your student. As your student develops independence and autonomy, some changes can feel unsettling and scary. The best option is to accept that changes will and should happen, but talk with your student about the changes and work together to identify the best way to adjust.
  • Remember that autonomy and responsibility are the goals. The college years are the time that individuals develop into young adults. This process benefits from a flexible and responsive parenting style that accommodates shifts of control and independence. We encourage you to talk with your student and consider negotiating new expectations along the way.

If your student contacts you in a state of distress or appears different than usual, we encourage you to remain calm and supportive while asking directly about what might be wrong. If your student is willing to talk, you can help them think through the issue and find possible options. If your student is hesitant to talk, encourage them to consider contacting CaPS, their RA, or speaking to a trusted friend/relative as a starting point. We encourage you to learn about resources available to your student in order to help them take the important step of reaching out for help.

Please check out the Student Support and Resources page to find out more about resources available to undergraduate and graduate students at Carnegie Mellon.

Crisis Support

Psychological crises are subjective. They can range from mild to life-threatening and can be obvious or subtle. If you feel your student is experiencing a psychological crisis, we recommend you take your concerns seriously and respond in a caring and immediate way. Consider encouraging your student to call CaPS. Phone counselors are available after hours.

If you are concerned that they can’t care for themselves, or are at risk of hurting themselves in the moment, these are the numbers to call:

  • If student resides on campus, call CMU Police at 412-268-2323.
  • If student resides off campus, call Pittsburgh Police at 911 (if calling from Pittsburgh area) or 412-255-2927 (if calling from out of town).