Resources for College Students
Impacted by Mental Health Issues
The National Alliance on Mental Illness
Approximately 75% of mental health conditions begin by age 24, making college a critical time, especially as students transition away from their support systems. With one in five young adults living with a mental health condition and suicide ranking as the second leading cause of death among 15 to 24 year olds, it is vital to talk about mental health before students leave for college. The guide contains information about mental health, privacy laws and how students can keep their parents informed.
"College is an incredible time in a young adult's life, but also a stressful time when the vast majority of mental illnesses first appear. Yet, when students prepare to go off to college, they often get vaccines and families talk about nutrition or exercise, but skip addressing mental health needs," said Mary Giliberti, J.D., NAMI Chief Executive Officer. "Reading this guide, having conversations together and knowing where to go for help are important steps to keep students mentally well and avoid tragedy from emerging mental illnesses."
"Going to college is a major life milestone and time of significant change for students and their families," said John MacPhee, JED Chief Executive Officer. "This guide will help students and parents better prepare for this transition by helping them understand and discuss issues related to college student mental health and establish a plan to address potential concerns together."
Starting the Conversation: College and Your Mental Health is a resource for students and parents to start this important conversation. While it may be hard to initiate, it can make all the difference.
- #CollegeMentalHealth twitter info
- NAMI on Campus
NAMI knows that some of the best support a student can receive is from peers. When students connect with one another, they can share common experiences and support each other through the transitions. NAMI on Campus helps make those connections happen.
NAMI on Campus clubs work to end the stigma that makes it hard for students to talk about mental health and get the help they need. Clubs hold creative meetings, hold innovative awareness events, and offer signature NAMI programs through partnerships with NAMI State Organizations and Affiliates across the nation.
- NAMI membership for students
Students automatically qualify for $3.00 open door fee instead of the $35 annual membership fee.
- NYS Office of Mental Health:
Many links related to mental health and college students
online resource for college mental health
- CNN: Shedding Stigma to Stop Suicides on College Campuses
peer-run mental health organizations on campus
How parents can protect the mental health
of a college-bound child
The transition to college — it’s a big one. Teens are suddenly faced with new freedoms, living arrangements, relationships, responsibilities and stress.
Parents across the country are spending this month preparing their children for the move. They are lecturing them about things like how to manage finances, do laundry and stay safe.
But with all the first-time challenges and pressures, parents also need to impart the importance of emotional health.
Emotional issues are cited as a leading reason students struggle during college. Those who have skills in managing stress and staying healthy, experts say, are better equipped to handle the challenges. Yet, while parents are often aware of their child’s vulnerabilities, many are caught by surprise when going away to college causes problems.
The spring 2014 research survey by the American College Health Association showed that some time within the previous year, 46 percent of students felt hopeless, 59 percent felt very lonely, 54 percent felt overwhelming anxiety and 33 percent felt so depressed it was difficult to function.
When unaddressed, these warning signs can lead to serious consequences. The same survey showed 8.1 percent of students seriously considered suicide and 1.3 percent attempted suicide. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students — nearly 4,900 people age 15 to 24 died by suicide in 2013 in the U.S., statistics show.
This is also the age period when severe psychiatric orders — such as bipolar and schizophrenia — typically manifest, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
EXERCISE, SLEEP, NUTRITION
A parent’s goal should be to encourage their child to seek help before problems become debilitating, according to the Jed Foundation, the nation’s leading organization working to promote emotional health and prevent suicide among college students. It was founded 15 years ago by Donna and Phil Satow after they lost their son Jed to suicide.Dr. Nance Roy, clinical director for the Jed Foundation, said stress is unavoidable, but parents and their children can discuss ways to manage it. Regular exercise, 20 minutes of alone time, listening to music have all been shown to improve mood and reducing anxiety. Getting enough sleep and eating well also go a long way in protecting overall wellness.Roy suggested getting involved in campus clubs or service work can to fend off feelings of loneliness and isolation, but make sure the commitment is manageable and meaningful.
If students get overwhelmed, most colleges have a counselor or counseling center on campus where students can be seen free of charge for a certain number of visits. Students should know how to access the center as well as the student health center, academic support services and their resident adviser.
Some may have concerns about privacy, so make sure your child understands that all health care professionals must keep what is said during treatment confidential (even from parents, unless the student or others are in imminent danger). Remind your child that seeking counseling is a sign of strength, not weakness.
While a stigma still surrounds mental illness, Roy said it’s lifting. Colleges are educating staff members, providing peer counselors and encouraging leaders on campus to speak out about how they overcame their pains.
THINGS ADD UP
“Efforts to train students and everyone on campus about what the signs are of someone struggling and how to reach out helps with destigmatization,” she said, “and peer-to-peer communication, and those speaking out saying, ‘This happened to me, and this is how I got help.’”Parents can talk about the signs that signal they, or even a friend, may need help: not eating, headaches, feeling on edge, having difficulty organizing their tasks or withdrawing.But steer clear handing students a to-do list or figuring it all out for them, which is disempowering. Roy suggests parents discuss typical stressors their children will face like getting along with a roommate, exposure to drugs and alcohol, making new friends and keeping up with assignments. And then say, “Those things can add up. Even though you never have, should you struggle, where can you go for help?” And, “If you’re not certain, call me, and we will figure it out together.”
Be forthcoming when filling out health history forms, even if the child is currently healthy, Roy says. That information can generate an email from the college about where to go for help should issues re-emerge.
For students already diagnosed with mental health issues and special needs, Roy said, it’s important to transfer the child’s care plan over the summer so records and providers are already in place when classes start.
Though these emotional preparations are critical for college-bound students leaving the nest, Roy emphasized that building resiliency and coping skills happens long before packing the suitcases.
In high school, she said, “begin to encourage more independence before they are thrust into college where there are suddenly no boundaries.”
Let teens make decisions, come up with plans and keep track of school work. Resist the temptation of doing it all for them or giving constant reminders. Let them be responsible for handling communications and forms for college and meet the deadlines. Have them go away to camp, cook their own healthy meals and do their laundry. That way, college doesn’t entail struggling with so many new things at once.
“We are learning that students are coming to college with few basic life skills and are having difficulty trying to adjust,” to social and academic challenges, Roy said. “Having these things under their belt already can really go a long way, because when they go off to school they have enough things to worry about.”
What can parents do?
• Keep the lines of communication open. Don't be afraid to talk to your son or daughter if you think something is wrong. You may be in the best position to notice and address any difficulties. Be persistent.
• Encourage your child to go to the counseling center if one of you think it is necessary. Reassure your child that counseling services are provided confidentially. Continue to be supportive.
• Find out who to call at the college if you're concerned about your child's emotional well-being. Create a list of key campus contacts and keep it on hand. Make sure it is up-to-date.
• Understand the circumstances under which the college will notify you regarding you child's mental health.
If you are concerned your child may be thinking of suicide:
• Be direct. Talk matter-of-factly about suicide. Asking does not put the idea into his or her head.
• Listen. Allow for full expression of feelings. Accept them.
• Be non-judgmental. Don't act shocked. Don't debate whether suicide is right or wrong or lecture on the value of life.
• Get involved. Show interest and support.
• Offer hope that alternatives are available, not glib reassurance.
• Remove means, such as guns or stockpiled pills.
• Don't be sworn to secrecy. Get help from individuals or agencies specializing in crisis intervention.
Source: The Jed Foundation
More helpful information for students and parents can be found at TransitionYear.org.
Anyone can seek help by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255).