There are times when it may be best for a student struggling with psychological issues to be away from college for a while. Significant depression, anxiety, substance abuse, an eating disorder, or other mental health difficulties can substantially interfere with a student’s ability to manage his/her academic work adequately.
Poor academic performance then further contributes to the student’s emotional struggles and can also damage their academic record. Participation in valued co-curricular activities and social relationships may suffer and add further discouragement.
When a student cannot effectively manage their college life, it is time to consider some measure of time away. When issues of safety arise for the student or others around them, diminishing this risk may require resources beyond those available at Luther College or in the Decorah community.
If you have immediate safety concerns for your student or others around them, consult the Crises Resources section of this website now.
When your student is struggling with non-emergency psychological issues and may well need time away from Luther, please contact the Student Life Office (563) 387-1020 to discuss your student’s situation and needs and to determine a reasonable plan.
The Dean for Student Life, Associate Dean, or Health Resources Advocate can assist you. If your student is already seeing a counselor on campus or in the Decorah community, you will probably also want to involve that professional in the discussion.
The initial plan for your student may involve coming home for a short period of time to regroup and to see a mental health professional for an evaluation and recommendations for treatment. Or perhaps your student left campus in the midst of an emergency situation that led to a stay in a hospital behavioral health unit for a few days.
Whether your student’s departure from campus was planned in conjunction with college staff or occurred on an emergency basis, please be in contact with the Student Life Office to sort out the next steps for your student.
This office can help you and your student decide whether returning to campus soon and going forward with the semester is a reasonable plan or whether a more extended time away is advisable. As part of this process, the Student Life Office will probably request that your student authorize release of information to Student Life from the mental health professional or hospital that evaluated and treated them or from your student’s counselor at the Luther Counseling Service or in Decorah.
Recommendations for further treatment needs to be considered in relation to the resources available at Luther and in the Decorah community. Your student’s likely ability in coming weeks to effectively manage academic work and other facets of college life must be considered.
Especially when significant safety issues have been present, the impact of your student’s struggles on roommates and friends must also be taken into account. If your student will return and attempt to complete the semester, the Student Life Office can assist with academic adjustments that may make their academic responsibilities more manageable.
Sometimes the best decision is withdrawal from the current semester and time at home to focus on addressing psychological issues through ongoing treatment. This may be the best plan for your student’s psychological well-being and also their academic success. The Student Life Office can assist you and your student with all the necessary arrangements for more extended time away from the college and for leaving open the option of returning to Luther when your student is truly ready.
Well before your student wishes to return to Luther, it is crucial that you and your student again contact the Student Life Office to consult about this decision. The Student Life Office will probably request information from the mental health professionals who have been providing treatment, including any recommendations for continued treatment once your student returns to Luther.
To maximize your student’s chances of a successful return to college, it is critical that you and your student plan well for this transition. This includes being sure that there are adequate mental health and other support resources in place for your student before they return to campus.
If the treatment plan involves off-campus mental health resources, you must be sure that you have adequate health insurance coverage or other financial resources to manage the cost of off-campus treatment. Please see the Off-Campus Services section of our website for information about Decorah mental health professionals and how to check your insurance coverage for them.
Please know that taking a semester or year away from college can truly be the best decision for your student in certain circumstances and that it is very possible for your student to return at a later time, do well, and graduate. Devoting time and energy to addressing significant psychological issues may not only help your student do well in college, but also enjoy success and quality of life beyond college.