How is your college student and teenager feeling these days? When was the last time you checked in with them?
The holiday season is my favorite time of the year, but it didn’t always look this way. The holiday season can be a difficult time for many individuals, especially college students who are experiencing the stress and demands of transitioning from high school to college. They can be silently dealing with college-specific issues such as problems with their roommates or struggling with academics.
They may also be dealing with problems in their social circles or relationships, as they are learning how to navigate this complicated world as “adults” with more independence and responsibility. Therefore, now is the perfect time to have in-depth and heart-to-heart discussion with your college students about their emotional and mental health.
So, do you really know how your college students are feeling today?
Every student should have a check up from the neck up
Many college students are returning home these days for the holidays. Therefore, now is the perfect time to check in with them to have more in-depth conversations about how they are doing, not just on the outside regarding grades and activities, but on the inside.
According to college depression experts such as John F. Greden, MD (Founder and Executive Director, University of Michigan Comprehensive Depression Center) and Todd D. Sevig, PhD (Director, Counseling and Psychological Services, University of Michigan), the holiday season is a delicate time for many college students.
By now, they have really experienced what it’s like to transition from high school to college and have managed an array of stressors like academic demands, home-sickness, financial aid issues and possibly social pressures like underage drinking and sexual pressure.
So how can parents help college students with depression awareness?
How parents can help college students & depression awareness
As someone who suffered from depression during her teen and college years that went undiagnosed and unrecognized, I understand that depression is not a sign of weakness. In fact, depression is a medical condition that one cannot control, similar to heart disease and diabetes.
1) Pay attention to warning signs
First, it’s our responsibility to look out for signs of depression in our children because they are generally not mature and wise enough to deal with depression on their own and/or with their peers. Below are common signs that your son/daughter may be depressed.
- Feeling sad or withdrawn for more than two weeks
- Severe, out-of-control risk-taking behavior
- Sudden overwhelming fear for no reason
- Not eating, throwing up or using laxatives to lose weight
- Seeing, hearing or believing things that are not real
- Repeatedly and excessively using drugs or alcohol
- Drastic changes in mood, behavior, personality or sleeping habits
- Extreme difficulty in concentrating or staying still
- Intense worries or fears that get in the way of daily activities
- Trying to harm oneself or planning to do so
2) Regularly check in with your student and de-stigmatize the idea that mental health issue is a weakness
Next, parents should regularly check in with their teens and have this important discussion on an ongoing basis.
While depression is common among young people nowadays, the good news is that there are many tools and treatment options available.
3) Some helpful resources and screening tools for depression
Parents can play an active role in depression awareness by sharing these valuable online tools with their college students regardless of how the students are feeling today. This way they know exactly where to go and who to turn to in case they find themselves depressed or know someone who does.
These online tools will help students learn how to track their own stressors and know when to get help.
This is a great opportunity to teach them that part of becoming an adult is learning to take care of one’s own health.
This site is focused on the ‘transition’ from HS to college, etc: https://www.settogo.org/
A screening tool that’s used a lot for colleges and universities: https://screening.mentalhealthscreening.org/goblue
National Alliance on Mental Illness. Starting the Conversation: College and Your Mental Health can be accessed at: https://www.nami.org/collegeguide/download
How you can help raise depression awareness TODAY
My partner 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.
Once you’ve completed the survey, you will have the option of providing your email address to be entered into a drawing administered by SOMA Strategies to win 1 of 10 $100 VISA gift cards.
If you choose to enter, your email address will not be sold, kept, or stored; email addresses are used only to randomly draw the winners and notify them of their prize.
Thank you for reading and spreading awareness of depression that affects millions of people today. For more information, read my previous posts about signs of depression in college students.