Monday, November 18, 2019

Ten Questions to Ask Your College Student this Thanksgiving

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.

Many people think of college as the best years of their life, a brief, golden time filled with opportunity, adventure, and that precarious, delicious balance of newfound freedom and only a little bit of adult responsibility. It’s not all parties and pizza, however. The transition to college can be hard, especially with the added pressure of watching your peers’ best lives play out on social media while your real life, in your real messy dorm room, isn’t quite what you thought it would be. 

As an adjunct professor of Public Health, I see kids struggle every semester. Being a ‘successful’ college student means something different for everyone, but the pressure and expectations young people face now are very real and somewhat different than what their parents experienced. Students today are functioning in a world that is designed to distract them and keep them running on a hamster wheel of near-constant social comparison.   

The research tells us that about 15% of college freshman in the US report having a mental health issue during that first year away from home. A 2018 study by the American Psychological Association showed that about one in three first-year university students worldwide (the study looked at eight industrialized countries) reported symptoms consistent with a diagnosable mental health disorder. 

Having your college student at home for the holidays is a great opportunity to check in with them. The following questions are conversation starters and like any conversation with a teenager, you need to pick your moment. Make it clear that you want to know how they’re really doing and that they should feel free to ask you about your mental health, as well.
  1. Would you say that you’re happier, the same, or less happy than you were when you first arrived at college?
  2. If you could change anything about this semester so far, what would it be?
  3. What is your happiest or best memory of college so far?
  4. What parts of school have been the hardest to adjust to?
  5. Have there been parts of school that were totally different than your expectations? If so, what are they?
  6. What have you heard, or seen, about friends or other students who are struggling? Is there one story or incident that sticks out? (Be sure to tell them that they can keep the story anonymous)
  7. What do you think is driving the mental health problems and struggles that most college students deal with? Is it stress from school? Relationships or friendships? Homesickness or finding your place at school?
  8. If one of your friends or someone in your dorm was struggling with a metal health issue, what would you do or say?
  9. What are some places to go for help on campus or some resources that the university has to deal with  problems like this if they come up?
  10. What can I be doing to help support you and make sure you’re doing ok in terms of your mental health, without being annoying or intrusive? 

I think one of the best things we can do for college freshmen is to normalize how hard that first year can be. Make sure they know that it’s normal to feel lonely, overwhelmed or stressed. Remind them that not every minute is supposed to be fun, no matter what their expectations may have been, that college is real life and a lot of it is boring and requires hard work and focus. Tell them that struggle is a great teacher and that some of the most important lessons to be learned in college are about facing hard things and taking responsibility for yourself. Taking care of their mental, emotional and physical health is incredibly important and these conversations can be a way to remind them how much it matters.

National Alliance on Mental Illness. Starting the Conversation: College and Your Mental Health. Accessed at: 

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.

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.

(c) Mommyland Blogs 2013-2019

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