Have you been able to find the time, the words, or the courage to sit down and talk with your college freshman about their mental health? If not, know that you’re not alone. It seems that most parents freely and easily discuss things like finances, majors, schedules, and housing. But, many find it very hard to approach the more difficult topics like depression, anxiety, substance use or suicide. Yet, we know that occurrences of mental health problems continue to soar on college campuses everywhere. Since 2011, rates of anxiety have nearly doubled, and rates of depression have risen by more than fifty percent. According to the Center for Collegiate Mental Health’s (CCMH) 2016 Annual Report, nearly half of all college age students have a diagnosable psychiatric disorder, while one-third have seriously considered suicide. It can most understandably be a frightening time for both young adults and their parents. And, for many, the first signs and symptoms of mental health problems emerge during the college years when students are grappling with their first prolonged stretch of real independence. That’s why it’s so crucial for parents to have a plan and know how to spot the signs before a mental health problem or crisis emerges when they are away at school.
What can you do to help?
- Talk to your student about where to go on their campus for emotional and/or academic support.
- Connect with other parents via Facebook groups or online forums and discuss how to get involved.
- Advocate for more resources and better programming on your student’s campus that address mental health.
- Take a class in Mental Health First Aid which is a course that gives people the skills to help someone who is experiencing a mental health problem or crisis.
By talking about mental health concerns with young adults sooner rather than later, we can reduce stigma and let them know it is okay to pursue treatment. In fact, research shows that the earlier young people seek help for mental health problems, the more quickly he or she will recover. For assistance, please call (866) 367-0220 .