Parents of teens and college students, do you know the warning signs of depression in college and the red flags? Do you know how to talk to your teens about this subject, to de-stigmatize mental health issues? Read on for warning signs, triggers, and tips for parents on how to help with the kids are away.
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. Please take a few minutes to complete the survey linked at the end.
From the moment you give birth to them, your children are with you their entire lives right up until the summer after they graduate. Eighteen solid years (give or take) with your child at home, within your open arms, your caring heart, with your home-cooked meals, your motherly ways, and it all goes by so effortlessly fast, it damned near took my breath away the week of graduation.
My first born son, he’s been with me for what seems like an eternity. Every first, every boo boo kissed, every problem solved, all under my watch all 18+ years of his life. He decided it would be best to stay at home and go to community college for two years to get his core courses under his belt before going “away” to school. It seemed like the absolute perfect thing, let him dip his toe into the college waters before diving right in, save money, etc. It gave him a cushion, too – still being at home with me, having my home cooked meals, same surroundings, all while starting his adult life. For some people, this is the best solution. For us, it was most definitely the best solution.
My sweet daughter, on the other hand, was completely over-the-moon thrilled to have been accepted at her first choice college! We were so proud! Only.. it was 630 miles from us. As proud as I was of all her hard work, I was equally as anxious. I gulped any and all emotion down in reaction to the news as to not plague her with parental guilt or anxiety about the separation in any way. Yet, truth be told, I was beyond scared to have her so far away from us. As it turned out, despite her initial excitement in being selected, she, too, was just as scared as we were (if not more so) to be so far from home. Going away this soon turned out to be not the best thing for her, and so she didn’t.
After bearing witness to their own individual growths as they grew older, year after year, grade after grade, pride nearly busted me into pieces as I witnessed them both graduate and toss their caps into the air on graduation day. All that hard work, all the blood, sweat, and tears we endured to get to that point, it all came rocketing back within that week of graduation. His first words, her first pigtails, his first time in kindergarten crying for me not to leave, her first loose tooth, their first days in soccer, I kept teetering back and forth on childhood memories choking back tears and wondering where time went.
To be 100000% honest? Letting go at this age is the freaking TOUGHEST THING EVER! Here you are, raising these kids day in and out, and then you blink and WHAM, suddenly you’ve got to let go. And it isn’t just difficult for us parents, either, it’s equally if not harder for the kids. Don’t mistake their excitement and intended emancipation from you as being completely okay with what’s happening. Truth be told, they’re kind of a wreck (just like we are). Lots of new things are coming at them, and they’re not sure exactly what to do. I knew my daughter was struggling with her decision to go so far away, even if it was a great opportunity, and its because I knew the signs, and what to look for, in order to help her.
Emotional College Prep
I’m partnering with Med-IQ to help generate awareness around depression among teens and dismantling any and all stigmas around it. Med-IQ is an accredited medical education company that provides an exceptional educational experience for physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and other healthcare professionals. Depression isn’t something to be ashamed of, it happens in 1 out of every 4 or 5 people, and is completely treatable. Parents, let’s help de-stigmatize this topic and help our children succeed with both a strong heart and mind.
Friends, do me a favor, okay? Sit down with your kiddos, young and old. In this day and age, with social media and electronics, kids are bearing witness to a ton more things and situations than we did as kids. You’ve got to check-in with them more, let them know that talking about any and all feelings is alright. And these older kids, man, it can be reeeally hard to crack those nuts. They went through puberty, and awkward social situations, the pimples and growth spurts and all kinds of typical-yet-emotional trauma being pre-teens and teens in junior high/middle school and high school. Those situations don’t suddenly get better because they threw their cap in the air and received a diploma. No, often times, things can get exceedingly worse, and not something they (or we) were prepared for. Until now.
Teens are a special kind of case here because, although they look like adults, they’re still children that need guidance. Adults in crisis know how to reach out for help, where to go, what to do. Children and teens, however, need assistance, often relying on friends, family, teachers, and other caregivers to help them should they ask, or recognize their suffering in order to help them.
For instance, in small children, anxiety and anxiousness can manifest into stomach aches, which is also the case for teens as well. They aren’t fully aware that their stomach is actually a nervous stomach, so they think it’s just something they ate and dismissing the real issue without actually investigating it. This is where parental guidance can really make a difference.
What are the Stressors for College-Aged Students?
What sort of stresses do college students endure when going to college? When talking with your child about common college stressors, be sure to cover all the bases below on what could potentially stress them out, and what they can do to help themselves. (You can save the following image to your computer.)
Now that we’ve got a good grasp on what sort of things could stress your child out while attending college, let’s talk a bit about what sort of signs your child might exhibit should they already be depressed, anxious, scared, and in need of mental help.
Signs Your College Bound Child is Depressed
What are some signs that your son/daughter may be depressed?* If your child is experiencing any of the following, seek out help for them immediately! (You can save the following image to your computer as well.)
What Can Parents Do to Help Their Kids?
Talk! Make it okay to talk and discuss this (and any) subject – any time, any where. Even discuss your own mental illness and anxiety (if any) with your child, too. Let them know that you know how they feel, how tough it can be, and ways you help yourself, who you talk to, how you de-stress, and how to prevent depression in college. Don’t wait until they’re already away at college, or about to leave, talk with them as often as you can about their feelings, thoughts, and stresses along with stress management and coping techniques. Parents should absolutely be having this conversation with their teens before they head off to college and teens should be aware of the resources available to them on their campus and locally. Let them know it’s okay to be nervous, scared, and help them work through their fear by helping them to realize you will be with them every step of the way, even if you aren’t physically there by their side.
While creating the list of items they will need at college, for their classes, dorm room, car, etc., do you and your child a favor and also schedule them not just for a full physical, but also for a mental health check-up, too. Perhaps enroll them in therapy for the summer while they prepare for their college life ahead so they’ve got a pro to talk to about the myriad of emotions that they’re going through. The challenges they face are scary, and getting a “check-up from the neck up” is all too important for their health and well-being. Help them to face and diffuse possible emotional triggers to help prevent depression in college for them.
Take the Survey!
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.
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.
Med-IQ Facebook Live
Recently, Med-IQ conducted a Facebook Live to talk openly and honestly about teens and mental health and what every parent needs to know before dropping your teen off at college. I hope you’ll consider watching, it’s another great resource!
Other important resources to read and discover:
- American College Health Association. American College Health Association-National College Health Assessment II: Reference Group Executive Summary Spring/Fall 2017. Hanover, MD: American College Health Association; 2018.
- Van Pelt J. College mental health initiatives – outreach to at risk students Social Work Today
- Unigo. College depression: the warnings signs you need to know
- Mayo Clinic. College depression: What parents need to know
2American Association of Suicidology. College Students and Suicide Fact Sheet. 2016 Fact Sheet
*National Alliance on Mental Illness. Starting the Conversation: College and Your Mental Health
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