It is August and this year I am going to have two college boys. One who is going to be attending college for the first time. In our home we speak very openly about mental health and openly about mental illness and the possibility of how it could affect my children at any point in their lives, given the family history of mental illness and the fact that many times mental illness is genetic. They are also aware that the college years are where most mental illness will surface for the first time for an individual.
Before my middle child began his college career two years ago, we established him with a psychiatrist in case anything was to happen while he was at college. We wanted to make sure we were covered if an episode was to occur. He has ADHD and while his primary physician had always been able to prescribe him his medication, we knew that establishing with a psychiatrist would be the proper thing to do for a college student in case he was to have a situation. I am glad that hasn’t been the case and as of today he has had a great college experience and been able to handle the stress of college and mental illness has not surfaced in his life at this point.
This year one of my twins starts college for the first time. This son’s life has been touched by mental illness in the past and so the fear for me is much higher as we prepare for him to go off to college. When he was a freshman in high school, he went through a very deep depression that required a psychiatrist and therapist in order to get through the episode. I was very proud of my child because when he saw that he was not able to get past his depression on his own he reached out to me and he asked for help. Thankfully, our household rules of openly speaking about our mental health paid off for my child. He was able to get the help he needed and by the end of his freshman year he wasn’t as depressed and he was able to stop therapy and go off the medication for depression and return to his normal routines as a teenager and finish out his high school career almost normal.
However, I had noticed over the last three years that my son didn’t have the number of friends that his twin brother had. I noticed that he didn’t go out with his friends like his brother did. He avoided certain social settings, and he was just not doing things that normal teenage boys do. I noticed, but more than that my son started to realize he wasn’t doing those things either. He asked me once again as one of the most mature teenagers I have ever seen, to make him an appointment with the psychiatrist because even though he was taking care of himself physically and doing all the self-care he could he wasn’t able to break the grip that anxiety had on him and that he thought he needed to see the psychiatrist because it was a chemical thing that was wrong and he needed help to get past it before attending college on his own over 4 hours away from home. Once again, I established my son with a psychiatrist so he could find help before college.
College is a scary time for students. It’s scarier if students don’t feel they have the knowledge that their mental health is going to be okay while they are there. By establishing with a psychiatrist before they leave for college you take away a little of the fear. By knowing that you are going to do what you can to help your child feel their best by contacting doctors and getting them established with the doctor really can ease them into the college experience. I know it also puts my mind at ease to know that if a problem was to occur, I also have back up in the form of a great doctor to call. Do your part for your child if they have ever had issues with mental illness. Know where the medical facilities are on campus. Go over their options for while they are at school. Talk to them about what to do if they run into a roadblock, find themselves overwhelmed, or if they get depressed. Find out what your school’s resources are for mental health. If there are organizations on campus for support groups. Just do your part as a parent to prepare your child for the perfect college experience. College is scary but it should be the best time of their life. Make sure they get to enjoy it as that.