How to Help a Student Struggling with Mental Health Issues While Away at College

The transition from high school to college life is an exciting one for many young adults. But as with every transition, it is one full of change and stress. Colleges and universities provide a comfortable atmosphere intended to serve as a bridge between home and the professional world. Nevertheless, the college experience is ripe with stressors and mental health issues can arise. As a concerned parent or loved one, it’s imperative to be aware of the risks, and monitor the well-being of your college student while they are away.

Keep an Eye on Mental Health

Fortunately, most college students do not experience severe mental health issues and are able to deal with stressors using mature coping mechanisms. However, for some students, issues of depression, anxiety, substance abuse and Internet gaming and overuse, will have a deep affect on their quality of life and result in great, and often quiet struggling.

As a parent or loved one, it’s important to monitor for any warning signs that might indicate your college student is experiencing a mental health issue. Listed below are some typical signs of depression to be mindful of:

  • Loss of interest in daily activities, such as attending class or playing sports
  • Disruptions in sleep patterns (sleeping too much or too little)
  • Feelings of anxiety and sadness
  • Changes in appetite (over- or under-eating)
  • Loss of energy
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Internet or gaming addiction

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 30 percent of college students report feeling so severely depressed that it’s “difficult to function.”

Furthermore, many young adult mental health issues are co-morbid, meaning that they lead to other issues, often as a misguided source of relief or respite from pain. For instance, depression frequently results in substance abuse, leading to cycles of intoxication, short-term cessation, regression and withdrawal.

Finding Help for Your College Student

If you believe that your college student is experiencing mental health issues, help is readily available at Pacific Quest. Pacific Quest’s wilderness therapy program utilizes a neurodevelopmental approach, combined with horticultural therapy to promote whole-person wellness and motivate change in both adolescents and young adults. If you are far from your loved one and are unable to visit them and take care of them regularly on campus, consider coordinating therapy through a Pacific Quest program.

Stay in Touch

Thanks to technology, keeping in contact with your college student is as easy as sitting down at your laptop or opening an app (like Messenger or FaceTime) on your smartphone. While nothing compares to the personal touch of a visit, where you can truly connect and get a sense of your loved one’s environment, demeanor and overall sense of well-being, technology increases the ability to communicate and converse in person. Schedule regular face-to-face chats with your loved one using Skype and use finesse when bringing up any mental health issues you may think are bothering your loved one. Visual cues of their ongoing mood and energy will prove an invaluable asset in ascertaining the nature of their adjustment.

Ultimately, every college student—even those not experiencing a mental health issue—can benefit from your love and advice. College can be an exciting and novel experience, but the shock of any drastic change can be overwhelming and stressful. Just because your college student has flown the nest doesn’t mean that your guidance and love are of any less value—in fact, it is even more vital during this uncertain time, especially as a reliable grounding source for structure, stability and support.

Interested in learning more about Pacific Quest’s approach to therapy? Read more here:

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