Supporting Mental Health — A Checklist for Families of College Students

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On October 11, 2022

Mental health issues are far more common than most people realize. Fifty percent of us will encounter a mental health challenge in our lifetime!

Unfortunately, the group least likely to seek help are young people. And while starting college is exciting, some students find themselves overwhelmed by the transition to an unfamiliar environment full of new pressures and expectations.

Awareness and open lines of communication — with family members, professors/instructors, coaches and friends — can go a long way toward making sure no student struggles alone. Check out these tips on how to empower and support your new or continuing college student.

1. Prepare your student.

It’s very likely that your student, or one of their roommates or friends, will experience a mental health issue while at college. Prepare your student by talking about mental health on a regular basis. Review together what campus resources are available in case they are able to help a friend. By maintaining a dialogue, you’ll help them feel comfortable coming to you with questions and problems without fear of being judged.

2. Scope out services and have a plan.

All students, but particularly those who have already experienced mental health issues, should have a plan in place in case things get too difficult to handle. Consult the Missouri S&T Health and Well-Being Directory for a variety of services for on-campus, off-campus, and online resources to help your student.

If your student is already in the care of a psychiatrist or psychologist, make plans to continue that care with a clinician close to college. Both on-campus and off-campus Counseling Resources are available. Your student should have regular check-ins with a professional to monitor any changes. They can also register with Student Accessibility and Testing to access helpful accommodations.

3. Stay in touch.

Make time for regular conversations in addition to texting your student. It’s easier to hear in their voice when something is bothering them than it is to read into a text message. FaceTime and Skype can be even better. What if a family is unable to contact their student and is becoming concerned?  A UCARE Referral can be completed by anyone to begin an outreach effort.

Keep an eye out for symptoms of depression (including sadness), anxiety, hopelessness, irritability, restlessness, sleep difficulties, loss of appetite, suicidal thoughts, unexplained aches and pains, and tearfulness. A sudden drop in academic performance can be another sign that support is needed.

4. Check in about self-care.

The importance of a healthy diet, adequate sleep, and regular exercise can’t be overstated, particularly as they relate to overall mental health. Help your student connect self-care with emotional stability — ask them how they feel when they eat well or when they sleep poorly.

5. Forget stigma.

If your student is experiencing mental health issues, prioritize getting help over the fear of tarnishing their transcript or reputation. Some students will need time off from school to recover and get back on track. You can contact Missouri S&T Care Management to find out the procedure for taking a temporary medical leave of absence.

6. Allow mistakes.

Perfection is not a realistic goal and it’s important to let your student know that you support them no matter what. Mistakes and failure are an unavoidable part of life and are good opportunities for learning. A perfect GPA isn’t worth it if it comes at the expense of your student’s emotional well-being.

Among college students, the most common issues are anxiety, depression, alcohol and drug use, psychotic episodes and relationship difficulties. In addition, the onset of most mental illnesses peaks from ages 18–21. If you feel your student needs immediate help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 or text “BRAVE” to 741-741 for free 24/7 confidential support.


Author of Article: Stephanie Pinder-Amaker, PH.D.  Article adapted from  Please Note: Missouri S&T does not endorse or have a relationship with SOURCE and articles are provided for information purposes only.  Missouri S&T and SOURCE do not assume responsibility for error or omission in materials.  

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On October 11, 2022. Posted in Parents and Family, Wellness