Most of this series has been a kind of sarcasm and advice column combined. All sarcasm aside, one of the biggest issues that needs to be discussed is mental health. More and more students are being diagnosed for anxiety disorders, bipolar, depression, ADHD, eating disorders….the list only goes on. We talked about the difficulties of making the college transition in previous posts. Mental health is the most difficult issue for everyone (parents, students, staff) to deal with.
If you know that your student has had mental health issues in the past, please share this with the Housing Office staff, the Health Center, or Counseling Center. College and residence hall living is a tough transition for some and mental health issues can be amplified. A lot of students find the new freedom exhilarating and decide to stop taking medications or get off a regimented schedule. Sometimes the whole stress of the transition alone can cause medications to need to be re-adjusted. Sometimes the new freedom means using alcohol or drugs and the combination can inflate the behaviors of the diagnosed problem.
It can be very scary for new roommates, neighbors and staff when negative behaviors begin to manifest themselves related to mental health. Knowing the student’s history allows the university staff members to respond in an informed manner and intervene when/if necessary.
If your student has been undergoing counseling, this is probably not a great time to stop. He/she will probably need that extra support during the first semester. Contact the Counseling Center at the college/university to either set up sessions or discuss getting a referral to a local psychologist.
This is a great opportunity to remind both parents and students about confidentiality and the release form discussed in the last article. Having the signed waiver is critical for all parties to be able to share information for the success of the student.
Depending on your student, it might not be a great idea to take that long awaited vacation or second honeymoon during first semester. If your student has experienced mental health issues, it is important for them to know that their “rocks” are still in place at home while their new world is so challenging and chaotic. If first semester goes well for your student, plan a vacation for second semester.
Don’t go off your medications if you have them. Don’t drink or do drugs or decide that you are going to change your dosages because you feel great or you feel badly. College offers so much freedom that it is sometimes overwhelming. You want to do what “everyone else” is doing, but you may need to take time and tame the crazy chaos down a bit to be healthy. If you had a regimented schedule when living at home, try to stick pretty closely to that type of schedule if you can, at least in the beginning. Ease into any major change if possible. Changing from an early riser to a night owl affects everyone, but it might affect you more profoundly.
If you are having problems or you are feeling lonely, talk to your RA, go to the Counseling Center, or ask a cool professor for some help. There are tons of resources on campuses and the staff is there to help you be successful!
Next Installment: Go To Class!
Photo of Lucy, the greatest counselor ever, from Peanuts by Charles Schulz.
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