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6 Ways to Support Your College Student’s Mental Health

College marks a new beginning in a child’s life – for many it’s the first tentative steps away from the safety of their home. It is when a child becomes a young adult, and when they may quickly become aware that they are truly “on their own” for the first time.

With high school friends left behind, new social circles must be built from the ground up, roommate relations navigated and daily schedules created and managed with little – or no – supervision. For some, this transition is smooth. For others, it’s characterized by harsh, alternating states of enthusiasm, distress and confusion. It’s a vulnerable time that can take a toll on their mental health.

For many, the first signs and symptoms of mental health problems emerge during the college years. Nearly half of college students have a diagnosable psychiatric disorder, while one-third have seriously considered suicide, according to the Center for Collegiate Mental Health’s (CCMH) 2016 Annual Report.

While college students are seeking psychological help at a record-setting rate, the high demand for treatment services leaves college counseling centers struggling to meet them.

It can be a frightening time for both students and parents. That’s why it’s so crucial for parents to have a plan before a mental health problem or crisis emerges when your child is away at school. Here are a few tips:

  1. Know the ins and outs of your insurance plan and coverage; how it relates to mental health and treatment options. What student health insurance options are available through the college? What are the out-of-network benefits provided by your insurance plan?
  2. Call the counseling center on campus to ask about the kind of coverage, professional staff and the range of services available.
  3. Familiarize yourself with the college’s code of conduct and leave of absence policies in case such measures must be taken.
  4. Learn about the signs and symptoms of mental health problems and how to connect your child to care if necessary. Take a course in Mental Health First Aid.
  5. Engage your child in a conversation about mental health and how it relates to their experience as a college student. Involve them in all these tips.
  6. Most important – let them know they’re not alone.

Tips like those provided here for supporting your college student’s mental health can help ease the process, but expressing your unconditional and steady love is the utmost most important thing you can provide for your child.