Supporting our students when tragedies happen

Dear parents and families,

As many of you are aware from my campus message on March 27, we sadly lost a student a few weeks ago. Earlier this month, we unfortunately learned that another student died accidentally outside their off-campus residence. With two heartbreaking losses so close together, I wanted to share with you how we support students when tragedies like these happen and assure you that we are here for each student who may be struggling.

When our campus experiences a traumatic incident, being there for our students is top priority. We immediately call into action our student crisis response team to determine who is or may be affected; offer onsite counseling and support; and provide additional resources as needed. This includes working behind-the-scenes to gather information and contact family members and students who are directly affected — all while protecting the privacy and dignity of those involved.

In the world of social media and lightning speed communication, we know our students (and their families) are eager for information and share what they are hearing or seeing to make sense of situations as they unfold. We work hard to balance this need for information and expediency with trauma-informed support and care. What we can share about a circumstance varies greatly with each situation and is often led by the wishes of the family and federal law, which may limit what the university can disclose.

Regardless of how much we can share about a specific situation, our staff’s priority is making sure our students know they are not alone. We see ourselves as your boots-on-the-ground partners when you cannot be physically here with your student. We know it can be tough — we’re in this together.

Many of the resources we share with our students should be familiar to you, and we will be raising greater awareness of them throughout the rest of the semester:

  • University Health Services | Mental Health Crisis Line — Call 608-265-5600 (option 9) at any time to speak with a licensed professional. The crisis line is available 24/7, 365 days a year to students as well as to anyone concerned about a student, including family members, partners, friends, and roommates.
  • University Health Services | Mental Health Counseling — Though rumors run contrary, counseling appointments are available. Please encourage your student to call 608-265-5600 (option 2) if they need to meet with a counselor sooner than what may be available online in the MyUHS portal. UHS maintains daily appointment availability for crisis situations.
  • University Health Services | Let’s Talk — Daily drop-in consultations with a counselor are available virtually and at various sites across campus.
  • Dean of Students Office — Staff can help students find the appropriate support, connection, and resources if they aren’t sure where to go. Anyone can call or fill out a student of concern report if they need staff to assist with checking on a student.

Mental health needs continue to be high nationally and locally. We understand how important it is for our students to have ready access to counseling and the option of choosing counselors who share their backgrounds or identities. We are fortunate at UW–Madison to have one of the largest and most diverse mental health services staff in the country whose identities reflect those of our students and who offer multilingual counseling in Hindi, Mandarin, and Spanish. You are an important part of the team, too! If you need help broaching tough topics with your student, UHS provides guidance for parents and families on how to navigate those difficult conversations. Additional information about how to support your student can be found here.

April in Madison can be a very busy, fun, and sometimes stressful month as students prepare for the end of the academic year (or graduation!), study for finals, and yearn for spring to stay. We care deeply about the safety and well-being of our students and are here to support them in any way we can. Life is precious, and as parents, we may know this more than our students. Listen with empathy to help them continue to see the big picture and seek help when needed, to know people love them, to believe they belong at UW, and to be resilient.

We are on this journey with you and grateful for your continued support of our Badgers.

Take good care,

Lori Reesor, PhD
Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs