Updated March 25, 2019
College Parents of America has long been concerned about issues involving student health. Most recently our concerns have focused on the complex mental health needs of college students. This is the third of several posts we will share regarding a) Starting the Conversation b) Recognizing the Trends c) Advocating for Support.
Our prior posts demonstrate that the growth in student mental health issues over the past five years has been dramatic. This growth demonstrates the vital need for college parents to become involved and aware of how they can be prepared to support their student. The reality is that 75% of all mental health conditions begin by age 24. That’s why the college years are so critical for families to be prepared to understand and speak about mental health issues.
StudySoup.com published a useful article to advance this topic. They summarize some key data about the increasing demand for student mental health services. While most 4-year public universities do have a student health center that offers mental wellness support, much of what they’re able to offer students is limited. According to StudySoup, “we surveyed 4-year public university student health centers about whether or not they feel they have the resources necessary to help students in need. Of those we spoke with, 55% reported that they don’t have all of the resources necessary to support student wellness needs. The majority of those pointed to a lack of funding while many also expressed a need for more counselors.”
Our tips for parents include our take on suggestions from the JED Foundation. How to access resources available to your student on campus.
- Be prepared and understand FERPA. Make sure you are authorized to speak for your student and not limited by FERPA restrictions that may prohibit schools from disclosing any information regarding your college student.
- Keep the lines of communication open. Don’t be afraid to talk to them if you think that something is wrong. You may be in the best position to notice and address any difficulties that your student may be 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 student 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 student that counseling services are provided confidentially and that you will support them as they reach out for assistance.
- Find out whom to call at the college if you’re concerned about your student’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 student’s mental health.
- Have contact phone numbers available. We suggest that all college parents have these numbers not only for their own student but for friends and others who may be aware of a student who may be in need.
Lastly – as we have suggested in prior posts, please take a few minutes to watch this video. The National Alliance for Mental Illness created this video based on the guide Starting the Conversation: College and Your Mental Health developed in partnership with The Jed Foundation.
Please share this video and discussion with your fellow parents. Your courage to discuss mental health issues is vital to building the capacity and awareness for students to remain healthy.