Leaving for College & Mental Health

June signals the end of the school year and the beginning of summer. For high school seniors it means the end of the life they have known for the last 12 years. Parents, teachers and guidance counselors talk to young adults about their future and what they want from their lives. For some college is the answer, and they discuss location and financial aid. As college acceptances come rolling in they discuss roommates, the need for a new computer and who is bringing the refrigerator and who will bring the microwave. Their rooms fill up with sheets, food, clothes, shower items for the dreaded communal bathrooms–all the things they will bring with them to start on their new journey. Parents will talk about majors and academics, making good choices, and being safe (maybe). What’s often left out is a discussion about mental health. According the 2018 results of the American College Health Association approximately one of three college students has been diagnosed with or treated for a mental health disorder in the last year, one of five for anxiety and one of six for depression. One in eight college students have seriously considered suicide. With anxiety and depression on the rise, since 2011 rates of anxiety have doubled and rates of depression have risen by fifty percent, it’s important for parents and caregivers to have discussions about issues connected to mental health.

Through these conversations parents can reduce the stigma of mental health and let children know it’s okay to pursue treatment. The earlier your college student seeks help for a mental health problem, the more quickly he or she will recover. Let them know that if they don’t feel comfortable reaching out to you that they can reach out to their campus mental health professionals or other trusted adult. For many young people, college is the start of the rest of their lives, a time which offers challenges and opportunities which can be exciting and also stressful. Help your kids manage this time by opening up the conversation first when it comes to mental health. If we don’t talk to them about it, maybe nobody will.

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