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Preparing for College Mental Health to Help Students Succeed

father son hugging after graduation

You’ve spent the summer helping your child prepare for college. You’ve helped him or her pick out dorm room necessities and find a perfect first day of school outfit. However, you might have missed something on the college checklist: talking about mental health.

Between 2010 to 2016, the Center for Collegiate Mental Health (CCMH) 2016 Annual Report found that the college enrollment rate increased by 5%. As enrollments rates rose, so did the demand for mental health services, by at least 30%.

The CCMH’s report also uncovered several startling statistics about college mental health: 1 in 2 college students have received psychological services in the past 5 years, 1 in 4 college students reported engaging in self-injurious behavior, and 1 in 3 college students have seriously considered suicide.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, suicide is the second most common cause of death among this age group. It’s critical for parents and mental health professionals to understand the warning signs and risks associated with depression, anxiety and burnout in order to have a plan in place in case a mental health crisis emerges.

It’s essential for all parents to know the mental health resources a school offers, as well as who to contact if there is a noticeable change in their child’s behavior. It’s important for parents to have an open dialogue about consent, substance misuse, and sexual assault before their child heads off to school.

Parents with children who have been living with mental health issues can consider signing a bidirectional release of information to bridge communication between a “home” and a “college” therapist. Finding a way to continue treatment, even for issues that may seem resolved, may help ease the experience and transition to college for any student.

If a child does need mental health care while they’re at school, it’s important to know what is available for them both on- and off-campus. Schools’ mental health services may have waitlists for weeks or even months. If a child needs to see a professional before the start of a semester, make sure to book an appointment.

It’s possible that a school’s mental health resources don’t meet the needs of a student. Researching mental health options near the school and reliable methods of transportation are key.

With all of this in mind, the most important thing for parents to remember is that their child’s health and well-being should always take priority over their academics. Remember to express love and support for them, so they feel comfortable expressing when they need help.

Learn more about preparing for college mental health from the Philadelphia Inquirer

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