Starting college can be an exciting time of life where a young person gets to meet new people, gain independence and pursue their interests. But it can also be a stressful time, especially if the child has struggled with mental health issues in the past. All of a sudden, they are responsible for everything – their basic needs, getting good grades, meeting new people and more.
A new study from researchers in the UK and Canada found that about one-third of first-year students have or develop moderate to severe anxiety or depression. The study also found that college students who use illicit drugs had a higher chance of developing mental health problems, while students who were socially active tended to have better mental health.
Let’s learn more about mental health and college students and how you can help your child emotionally prepare for this chapter in their life.
Mental Health Problems Among College Students
Unfortunately, researchers have seen the mental health of college students deteriorate in recent years. According to data published in this Mayo Clinic article, up to 44 percent of college students reported having symptoms of depression and anxiety. Suicide is also the third leading cause of death for college students.
So why are our young people struggling so much? There are a few factors that are causing poor mental health, including societal pressures to achieve success and students not being equipped with essential life skills. Students who are arriving on their first day of school are less prepared to function as adults compared to previous generations.
Additional risk factors that can trigger depression or anxiety in college students are:
- Relationship breakups
- Peer relationship problems
- Drug or alcohol use
- Fear of disappointing parents
- Comparisons to one’s peers
- Sexual assualt
- Stressful life events
It’s also important to be aware of the potential warning signs of suicide. Four out of five college students who consider or attempt suicide show warning signs such as skipping classes, withdrawing from friends, giving away possessions, engaging in risky beahvior and talking about dying.
How to Help Your Child Prepare for Their First Year of College
The transition to college can be hard on any child. Kids are living on their own for the first time and are in charge of their own decisions. They often experience academic stress while also trying to build routines, make new friends and keep themselves healthy. This can be a lot for an 18-year-old.
Fortunately, there are things you can do to help your child prepare emotionally for college. Here are some tips that come highly recommended by the Child Mind Institute.
- Avoid solving problems for your child. Instead, empathize with them and let them know that you are there for guidance and support. But try to let them solve their own problems and get through difficult emotions on their own.
- Teach your child healthy coping skills. Life is not easy, and your child will go through hard times. Teach them healthy ways to cope with stressful situations. For example, you can practice meditation together.
- Take advantage of failure to launch services. If you believe your child needs support, consider having them participate in a failure to launch program. These programs help young people with social, emotional, physical and financial struggles.
- Practice good self-care. Promote good self-care in the months leading up to college. Encourage your child to eat balanced meals, get consistent sleep and exercise daily. Healthy habits make it easier to make smart choices.
- Keep in touch. Be sure to keep in touch with your child on a regular basis, even if it’s just a text. Open communication is important, and by talking to your college student regularly, you can pick up on things that aren’t right.
How to Know When Your College Student Needs More
More and more colleges and universities are offering mental health services directly on campus. This allows students to get the help and support they need without having to disrupt their schedules. Find out what support services are offered at your child’s school, and make sure they know how to access them.
However, there are times when these support services may not be enough. Some students need more robust treatment, and that’s OK. Recognizing this need is the first step to taking action. By entering an outpatient or residential treatment program, your student can get the support they need for substance use and mental health problems.
Breathe Life Healing Centers in Los Angeles, CA is a place of hope and healing. We treat a wide range of mental health concerns, including substance use, depression, anxiety, trauma and eating disorders. We have various levels of care, including outpatient services that will allow your child to continue school while receiving treatment. Contact our admissions team to learn more.