This is a sponsored post.
Sending a child off to college for the first time has been a learning experience! Sure we miss her, but it has been great to be more hands-off and to start developing an adult relationship with our daughter. I am so proud of her for everything she has figured out on her own so far. We got to see her one Sunday to go apple picking and we'll see her again soon for the holidays.
I can't think of another life-stage with as much rapid-fire change as the beginning of college, from deciding where and when to eat, navigating a campus, living with strangers, doing schoolwork without your parents breathing down your neck, deciding how much partying is too much, making friends, and managing one's time. It's startling, really. And with all of the happy posts on social media, you can get the impression that you are the only one experiencing any struggles adjusting. Ugh. That's just one more reason to be glad there wasn't social media when I was in college!
You may remember that I teamed up with Med-IQ to help generate awareness and education around teen depression and reduce the stigma associated with mental illness. Med-IQ is an accredited medical education company that provides an exceptional educational experience for physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and other health-care professionals.
Like our daughter, other college students are figuring out how to "Adult" for the first time in their lives, and parents are figuring out how to be supportive without micromanaging. It sure is nice not to know how much (or how little) sleep she's getting or how much Netflix she watches, but being several hours away and communicating only through text and the occasional FaceTime, means we can't really know how she's doing like we would if she were home. Like other parents, I've found myself wondering: is what I'm hearing discomfort at starting something new, is it homesickness, or could it be more serious?
With Thanksgiving right around the corner, and winter break shortly thereafter, NOW is an excellent time for parents of college students to check-in and see how your student is coping emotionally.
If your college student's campus is anything like my daughter's, there has likely been tons of illness and germs going around-- kind of like the preschool petri dish all over again! Talking about staying well on campus could lead easily into asking if your student knows what the campus offers for mental health wellness, and how your student has been feeling about his or her mental health.
If you're still having trouble broaching mental health with your teen, remember there are great online tools that can spark conversation.
I shared a quick mental health assessment tool with Margaret and her friends before school started, shared it on this blog earlier, and even took it myself several weeks ago when I wanted to know if the MAJOR FUNK I found myself in as I stared down a milestone birthday close on the heels of the most eternally long, infernally hot summer on record was something to worry about. It's great to share with your student as a way to check-in.
Other online tools such as this excellent College Guide put out by the National Alliance of Mental Illness can spark dialogue between you and your teen.
The holidays also provide an excellent time to discuss what an "every day problem" is versus a mental health issue. Just the nature of starting something new means there are many problems to navigate! In discussing the problems they've faced first semester, you can help your student label something an everyday problem (such as a roommate struggle) versus a mental health issue. This is not to diminish the problems these kids face, but rather to help give them tools to evaluate them so they will know if they are in a crisis.
Statistics tell us that depression and anxiety are rampant on college campuses, and that suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for this age group. It's disheartening and can be scary. For them. For us.
The promising news is that I've heard from several friends whose children, in the first month of college, sought guidance and help from their respective college counseling centers! That is a huge WIN because that means that kids really are getting the message that mental health is as important as physical health. They know where the student health centers are, so why not the counseling centers? Many of our kids already see the value of getting a "check-up from the neck up!" Let's not shy away from bringing up the topic of mental health with all college kids this Thanksgiving and winter break.
Information is power. We know that talking about depression and suicide does not cause depression and suicide.
Let's not lose heart. Let's stay tuned in. Let's keep learning. Let's keep talking.
Important: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 (more like 5!) 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-age child which will help us develop future educational initiatives. Please take the SURVEY HERE.
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 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.
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.
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