Tuesday, August 6, 2019

5 Mental Health Tips for Parents of College Freshmen

This is a sponsored post. I was compensated by Med-IQ through an educational grant from Otsuka America Pharmaceutical, Inc. and Lundbeck to write about depression in college-aged students.  All opinions are my own.

I’ve been teaching undergrads for the past six years and every year, I see kids wrestle with mental illness while also trying to manage the transition from adolescence to adulthood. This is hard stuff and even kids who have no history of these issues can get to college and start to struggle due to stress, loneliness, feelings of FOMO, the ill effects of sleeping less (kids get to college and start keeping crazy hours and this impacts their ability to self regulate), and partying (using drugs and alcohol occasionally or regularly). 

There are also a lot of kids who find themselves in the role of counselor to a friend or roommate who is struggling. This is real - young people (especially college freshmen) are more likely turn to a peer than a parent, professor or advisor.

Here are five tips that can help families with a student transitioning from high school to college. The goal is independence and self-advocacy - that kids can become more aware of how they’re feeling and know how to manage their mental health as they become adults. College is the perfect place to do that.


Tip 1: Know when to get help
Take the time before your kid leaves for college to learn about anxiety, depression and self-harm together. Help them understand that there’s a big difference between a bad day and a bad month, between having a rough first semester (because honestly, that transition is pretty hard for most) and being depressed. Help your student understand when to get help and how to recognize when others may need it.

Tip 2: Find out where to get help
Almost every college campus has a counseling center and every new student orientation is going to cover mental health. Pay attention to this stuff. Take the time to get a coffee or a smoothie and walk your kid to the counseling center so they know where it is. Then walk in. Get a sense of how things work, how to make an appointment, etc. It sounds dumb to some people, but not knowing what to expect can feel overwhelming to a kid who’s panicking or in crisis. Take the fear of the unknown out of equation. If they’ve already been there once, they may be more likely to go back.

Tip 3: Hand off managing meds
If your kid is taking medication for anxiety, depression, ADHD (or for allergies or something else), it’s absolutely critical that they understand how to manage their meds before they leave for college. This can be as simple as setting daily alarms as reminders and monthly notifications to refill prescriptions. It can be literally walking them through the process of going to the pharmacy and filling out forms, setting up text reminders from the pharmacy, or making notes on their phone about what medicines they take, at what dose they take, and the prescribing physician’s contact information. This stuff is high level adulting and not intuitive. Teach them and send them reminders the first couple of months they are at school. 

Tip 4: Check in with them about their mental health
Especially if your kid already has a mental health condition, make check-ins part of every conversation. Encourage your kid to assess how they’re doing honestly and objectively. Actively steer away from them telling you what they think you want to hear when it comes to their mental health. This is tough, because most older teens simply want their parents to love them and leave them free to do what they want. 

Tip 5: Give kids tools to assess where they’re at. 
Online tools will help students learn how to track their own stressors and know when to get help. As kids transition to living away from their parents, students are learning who they are and who they want to be, and part of that is learning how to take care of their own health.

LINKS:
·    National Alliance on Mental Illness. Starting the Conversation: College and Your Mental Health. Accessed at: https://www.nami.org/collegeguide/download 

Disclaimer: Links to external sites are provided as a convenience and for informational purposes only. They are not intended and should not be construed as legal or medical advice, nor are they endorsements of any organization. Med-IQ bears no responsibility for the accuracy, legality, or content of any external site. Contact the external site for answers to questions regarding its content.

SURVEY:
Med-IQ is conducting an anonymous survey and would appreciate your input. The survey, which includes additional education on this topic, will take less than 15 minutes to complete. Survey responses are shared only in aggregate. Your responses to these survey questions will provide Med-IQ with important information about your experiences with depression and mental health in your college-aged child, which will help us develop future educational initiatives.




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