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A Parent’s Guide to Mental Health for College Students

While the college years have always been a time when mental health problems can emerge, the problems have escalated according to data from the American College Health Association (ACHA) survey. What actions can parents take in the face of rising mental health problems?

Marcia Morris, M.D., the author of The Campus Cure: A Parent’s Guide to Mental Health and Wellness for College Students, offers the following five tips from her book to prevent, respond to and treat common campus challenges.

Tell, Test, Teach, Talk, Take Action

1. Tell your child they can come to you with any problem.

Your child may avoid sharing problems with you because they think they should be independent or they worry about burdening you. Explain that you can handle any problem they present to you. They can come to you day or night.

2. Test their academic health by checking their end of semester grades.

At the start of college, request your child sign a FERPA waiver form allowing you to view grades. I have seen students not tell parents that they are doing poorly or failing, thinking they should be able to solve academic problems on their own. If you’re aware of their academic struggles early on, you can link your child to campus resources like advisors, tutors, professors, success coaches and therapists.

3. Teach them how to recognize depression and anxiety.

While many parents talk with their children about preventing drug abuse and sexual assault, they rarely educate them about depression and anxiety. You can teach your child the warning signs and that these are common and treatable conditions. With this knowledge, they may seek help more quickly.

4. Talk with them more often or visit if they are in distress.

Some students will inform their parents that they are in distress and ask for help, while other students won’t tell parents until the situation is more serious. Keep in touch by Skype or Facetime or another app, so you can both see their face and hear their voice. If they tell you they are in distress or if you suspect it, encourage them to speak with a counselor.

5. Take action if your student is experiencing high-risk mental health concerns.

If your child is experiencing severe symptoms of mental illness such as suicidal thoughts or psychosis, it’s essential to ensure they’re actively engaged in treatment. Request they sign a release of information form allowing you to speak with their mental health provider. If you feel your child’s safety is at immediate risk, contact campus police, administration and mental health services.
Excerpted from “A Parent’s Guide to Mental Health for College Students.” For additional details, read the full blog post on the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) website. Dr. Morris’s book may be purchased online from numerous national retailers.

Source: National Alliance on Mental Illness | A Parent’s Guide to Mental Health for College Students, https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/December-2018/A-Parent-s-Guide-to-Mental-Health-for-College-Students | Copyright © 2021 NAMI

A screening can help you determine if you or someone you care about should contact a mental health professional. Care Managers can arrange a free 30-minute Care Consultation so you can explore options with an expert. Call or email our Care Managers at 650.688.3625 or careteam@chconline.org to set up an initial Consultation appointment.

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