This time of year – particularly with mid-terms can bring a great deal of stress in the lives of college students and their families. This is somewhat predictable given the high expectations and academic workloads. There are some things all parents need to know about your college student and their mental health.
First, the good news is that you are not alone. There are terrific resources available from the JED Foundation and others listed below.
Second, the bad news – the mental health of college students is a large and growing issue.
Supporting a college student through an unexpected event can be stressful Colleges and Universities have recognized the mental health needs of college students for some time. The growth, however, in mental health related illnesses is noteworthy and substantial.
The American College Health Association National College Health Assessment from 2010 – 2015 reports a dramatic growth in student reported incidents of the following illnesses. The data is alarming, particularly considering that health incidents can often disrupt a student’s education. Families are often aware that their college student may be vulnerable to the stress of college life but it is important to note that ordinary student health problems such as a mononucleosis, chronic health conditions or injuries also may force a student to withdraw from classes and cost a student and their family thousands of dollars.
Unfortunately, this trend is unlikely to change. The cover of this week’s Time Magazine brings attention to the important trends facing families raising young adults and college students.
The title “Anxiety, Depression & the American Adolescent” is a familiar theme to parents with young adults and college students.
According to a New York Times article from 2015, “Anxiety has now surpassed depression as the most common mental health diagnosis among college students, though depression, too, is on the rise. More than half of students visiting campus clinics cite anxiety as a health concern, according to a recent study of more than 100,000 students nationwide by the Center for Collegiate Mental Health at Penn State.”
Here are some essential tips offered by the JED Foundation:
- Keep the lines of communication open. Don’t be afraid to talk to him/her if you think that something is wrong. You may be in the best position to notice and address any difficulties that your child is having. Be persistent!
- Know the signs and symptoms of emotional disorders as well as the warning signs for suicide. It is common for mental health problems to appear for the first time during the college years, so you may want to familiarize yourself with their signs and symptoms.
- Encourage your child to go to the counseling center if one or both of you think it is necessary. Sometimes students can be reluctant to seek help because they are afraid that someone will find out. Reassure your child that counseling services are provided confidentially and that you support them as they reach out for assistance.
- Find out whom to call at the college if you’re concerned about your child’s emotional well-being. It may be helpful to create a list of key campus contacts (form provided) and keep it in a convenient place. Always keep the list up-to-date.
- Understand the circumstances under which the college will notify you regarding your child’s mental health.
In addition – we recommend that all parents secure FERPA permission and have permission to access your student’s information.
Lastly, we suggest that all college parents have these numbers not only for their own children but for friends and others who may be aware of a student who may be in need.
- Crisis Text Line is free, 24/7 emotional support for those in crisis. Our crisis counselors practice active listening to help people in crisis move from a hot moment to a cool calm – all through a medium they know and trust: text.
- Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance – DBSA offers information on depression and bipolar disorder as well as listings to patient support groups across the USA. (800) 826-3632