From an article in the LA Times entitled “Crisis on Campus,” this description of the tension between students’ privacy rights and what the author calls “families’ need to know”:
[A suicidal student] was referred to a school psychiatrist who agreed not to hospitalize her or call her parents if she would see the doctor twice a week for counseling and submit to close supervision in her dorm.
“I told the psychiatrist that my parents couldn’t find out because I was worried about their health,” she says. Under a federal law called the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, college officials must protect a student’s request for privacy and are not compelled to report such things as academic or even health problems.
Christine began taking antidepressants and her outlook improved. Eventually, she exhausted her limited number of free therapy sessions with the college psychiatrist but arranged for off-campus counseling and antidepressant treatment.
Only her roommate, resident advisor, the campus housing administrator and her therapists knew of her ordeal.
“My parents never found out, which I think helped me preserve my relationship with them,” Christine says. “My professors never knew. You really want to limit who knows because once you get through the crisis you want to live a normal life. You want to include all the people you need in your treatment, but you don’t want the whole campus to know.”
Law students are prone to depression at rates that are triple to quadruple the national average (see here). And clinicially depression occurs frequently in lawyers (see here). Are we doing enough to help students and professors identify the warning signs of depression? I teach in the week-long orientation program at my school, and mental health is mentioned only in passing.