Many young adults feel that the normal pressures of college combined with the pandemic have had a negative effect on their education and significantly harmed their mental health. According to a 2020 survey by BestColleges.com, 95% of college students experienced negative mental health symptoms and 46% reported feeling more isolated and lonelier since the start of the pandemic. Many reported sleeping less, feeling more anxious and depressed, and 32% experienced feelings of hopelessness. With most colleges opening their campuses and returning to in-person learning, efforts must be made to support positive mental health and to help students heal, process, and recover from past events.Continue reading Supporting Mental Health in College
Starting college is one of life’s major milestones. For many students, it’s the first time they’ll be living away from home, the first time they’ll be responsible for decisions about what to study and their daily routine. So it’s no wonder that the summer leading up to college is filled with a mix of excitement and trepidation. What if my classes are too hard? What if I have no friends?
It’s crucial that freshmen get the support they need to make this transition smoothly, otherwise they’re at high risk of dropping out. According to Department of Education, only about 40 percent of full-time students graduate from college in four years. The National Student Clearinghouse, a higher-education nonprofit, found that nearly 25 percent of full-time college students end up leaving school without completing their degree, and the dropout rate is even worse for part-time students. Six years after enrolling, only about 30 percent have graduated or continue to take classes.
Starting College Off Right
So how do you start off college right? By acknowledging the challenges ahead and finding out where to go for help when you need it.
“Probably the number one concern of new college students is entering an unfamiliar social environment,” says Dr. Bryn Jessup, Director of Family Services at Yellowbrick. “For most students, leaving home means trading a friendly and familiar social environment for an unfamiliar one, in which the vital experience of belonging is something that needs to be created anew, from scratch.”
Common worries among new students include:
- Anxiety about getting along with roommates
- Making new friends
- Keeping up with the academic workload
- Campus logistics (what if I get lost on the first day of class?)
Students can and should be reassured that there are things they can do to address all these potential problems. “It helps to identify ahead of time who, what, and where you can go to for help,” Jessup says.
Resident advisors in the dorms are trained to address roommate conflicts, and can even help arrange a room switch if necessary. Researching campus clubs and activities can steer a new student toward others with similar interests.
Focus on Time Management
And even before arriving on campus, students should be thinking about how they’ll stay organized.
“College presents significant challenges in time management,” Jessup says. Whether it’s an app on your phone or a paper planner, Jessup says freshman need to make sure they have the tools they’ll need to keep track of class times and meetings, administrative tasks, and deadlines.
Set Realistic Goals for Freshman Year
Today’s college students are under pressures their own parents may not recognize or understand. “Young people today are expected to ‘hit the ground running’ in order to launch a successful adulthood,” he says. “I hear more anxiety expressed these days about picking the right major, about strategic planning for graduate or professional school, about making sure that you’re doing all you can to justify the enormous expense of college.”
To counteract these relentless expectations, both students and their parents should be realistic about the goals for freshman year.
“I think it’s helpful for parents to endorse the idea that the first term—if not the entire first year of college—is going to be all about adjusting to living away from home, meeting new people and navigating a complex new environment,” Jessup says. “It should be a time for curiosity, for intellectual exploration and for tolerating ambiguity, uncertainty and novelty.”
Maintain a Connection with Family
That’s not to say students should be sent off to figure it all out themselves. Jessup says the students who adjust best to college life are those who have a good support system at home, as well as a good road map for where to seek help on campus. Students should leave home knowing how often they’re expected to check in with family, what kind of financial support they’ll be receiving, and how often they’ll be coming home for visits during the school year.
“Maintaining supportive connections with family and friends from home can help students feel grounded and self-aware as they navigate new territory,” Jessup says.
Additional Support: Campus Competence
For students who need more intensive, hands-on support, Yellowbrick’s new Campus Competence program is designed to assist young adults with learning disabilities or mental health challenges adjust to college life. A sober residential community located two blocks from the Northwestern University campus, it offers individual career and academic counseling, an on-staff occupational therapist to help students stay organized, and group sessions with experienced Yellowbrick professionals. For more information, visit: https://www.yellowbrickprogram.com/campus-competence-services.html
Going away to college is one of the most life changing events that happens in any young adult’s life, and it’s common for many college students to experience feelings of sadness and loneliness when they go away to school.
David Daskovsky, senior psychologist at Yellowbrick, says students often feel sad and lonely, especially during their freshman year, as they are bombarded with an avalanche of changes – everything from separation and loss of family and friends, the pressure of dealing with more rigorous coursework, and the challenge of having to figure out where they fit in socially.
“It’s remarkable anybody makes the transition unscathed,” Daskovsky says.
But for some students, these feelings of sadness and loneliness can turn into major battles with depression that can lead to them dropping out of school or committing suicide.
In fact, a 2009 study from the University of Michigan found that college students with depression were more than twice as likely to drop out of school, and a 2009 report in Professional Psychology showed that more than half of all college students have contemplated suicide.
So if you’re a parent of a college student, how do you know if your son or daughter’s feelings of sadness are normal or are a sign of more serious depression?
Daskovsky says it’s important to keep the lines of communication open so you’re able to tell what’s going on with your son or daughter’s mental health.
“If someone is just homesick, they would be sad, but they would be able to function,” Daskovsky says. “But if somebody who normally would be communicative is not responding to texts or calls, or is not sleeping or losing interest in things that used to be pleasurable, that might be a sign of depression.”
Other signs of depression can include:
- Not going to class; lack of interest in school
- Change of appetite or weight
- Sleeping too much or not enough
- Increased use of drugs or alcohol
- Trouble concentrating
- Extreme anger
- Thoughts of suicide or dying
Daskovsky says students may also become depressed if they feel like they don’t have a specific direction for where their life is going or if they feel they have failed to live up to their parents’ expectations.
If you suspect that your son or daughter may be depressed at college, here are some things you can do:
- Ask Them How They Feel
To determine how serious your son or daughter’s depression is, ask them to compare their current feelings to how they have felt in the past.
- Express Your Concerns Directly
“Don’t dance around the issue,” Daskovsky says. “Tell your son or daughter that you are concerned about them.”
- Encourage Them To Seek Help
If you determine that your son or daughter is suffering from depression, remind them that they are not alone. Encourage them to seek help from their college’s counseling office.
- Tell Someone
You can also communicate with the school’s the counseling office or your child’s advisor to alert the school of the problem and so someone on campus is aware and paying attention to your son or daughter’s condition.
Get more information about Yellowbrick’s approach to treating depression among college students and young adults.
College can be a stressful time for most students, but for those who are returning to college after being in treatment for alcohol, drugs or a mental disorder, re-entry can be especially hard.
The fears can seem overwhelming:
How will I handle the stress of school, dating and friends without using?
How will I be able to go back to a place that reminds me of such a dark time?
I’m so much older than everyone else now. What will people think of me?
Dr. Bryn Jessup, Director of Family Services at Yellowbrick, says it’s natural for students who have had a traumatic experience – such as hitting bottom with drugs, an eating disorder or attempting suicide – to have fears about returning to the place where they faced so much pain. Continue reading 5 Tips for Students Returning to College After Treatment
Assuming adult responsibilities includes maintaining a healthy body, brain, and mind. It means eating a good diet, getting quality sleep, and processing through complex emotions. While young adults handle their physical, social, and emotional health needs independently, they should take notice of any shift or imbalance in overall wellness. After all, early adulthood is a crucial developmental period, especially for the brain. Current research points out that many serious mental health concerns, like psychiatric illness and substance abuse disorders arise throughout early adulthood; however, few young adults receive therapy at the onset of their condition. If left untreated, mental health concerns can escalate, causing problems in school, work, or in relationships with others. Young adults who are experiencing the onset of a mental health concern, like depression or anxiety, should be proactive in seeking professional treatment.
Most college students use at least one online application throughout the course of a day. While many technological advances stimulate productivity and creativity, Diane R. Dean and Arthur Levine describe how college students can develop a dependency to their device of choice by continually turning to applications in their article, “Is There an App for That?” Autonomy and Dependency in Today’s College Students”. Continue reading Is There an App for That? Autonomy and Dependency in College Students