The One Thing You Haven’t Prepared Your College Student For

This is a sponsored post. 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. Thank you for supporting Thrill of the Chases. 

Getting ready for college has been a major topic of conversation in our house for a while now. Our teens still have a couple of years before they officially leave the nest, but because they are already attending an early college high school we talk about this almost daily. This means an even greater focus is already being put on college preparedness. This means homework and test grades stay up:; for college. They are aware that a well-rounded portfolio of volunteerism beyond academics is important: for college. Even our summer vacation schedule is dependent on when an additional summer class or two can be taken: for college. 

As parents, we are doing our best to prepare and guide them while still encouraging them to have as much autonomy over their lives as possible. We’ve had excited conversations about potential college tours. We’ve also had heavier conversations surrounding topics of college parties and campus safety. It wasn’t until Med-IQ approached us with this discussion that we considered how important it was to help them prepare their mental health for the college transition too. 

My partnership with Med-IQ allowed me to sit in on a discussion with doctors (John F. Greden, MD, Founder and Executive Director, University of Michigan Comprehensive Depression Center & Todd D. Sevig, PhD, Director, Counseling and Psychological Services, University of Michigan) to ask questions and learn why this emphasis on mental health during the transition to college is so important. 

Why is talking about mental health during the college transition so important? 

During the call I learned that suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students. So many risk factors are at play during this transition time that many could simply be overlooked until they weigh so heavily that you and your student is are left dealing with a crisis you are unprepared for. 

Risk factors include:

  • Loss of previous support system and social network  
  • Academic stress 
  • Increased pressure to succeed 
  • Feelings of isolation 
  • Mental illness, especially anxiety and depression 
  • Lack of adequate coping skills 
  • Conduct issues 
  • Previous suicide attempts 
  • Substance abuse 
  • Interpersonal difficulties 
  • History of abuse or trauma 
  • Impulsivity 
  • Fear of mental health stigma 
  • Insomnia

So, where we do begin? What can parents do?

The doctors advised that parents check in with their own level of stigma and their own history with mental health that may be keeping them from approaching the topic with their children. All students are affected to some degree and it is important to gain understanding and education about the realities of college life today. Use online tools and encourage your students to use them to gain insights and assess their own needs. These online tools can help students learn how to track their own stressors and know when to get help. As they transition to living away from their parents, the doctors discussed how the students are learning who they are and who they want to be, and part of that is learning how to take care of their own health.

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.

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 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.

Without this conversation I would have been left without a starting point to begin a conversation. Looking back on my own experiences, I now recognize some factors in play that I probably should have sought help with when I was their age. At that time neither the adults in my life or I were informed enough to make that decision. I am hoping that because of this information our children will not struggle in the same ways I did. In a future blog post, I will share more about how we are planning to approach the conversation with our students, resources you can use, and what our teens thoughts are after the initial conversations. I hope you’ll participate in this part of the journey with us. I truly believe it will be life changing. 

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