We have hit that point in the semester where students are feeling more stressed, the weather is getting colder and the honeymoon period of being in (or back in) school has definitely worn off. Here in Counseling Services we are busier and busier serving your students as they face the challenges of managing their studies, non-academic activities, sports, finances and personal and family relationships, often when time and energy seems to diminish at faster and faster rates.
Even in college, as students are learning to become responsible and independent adults, parents play a significant role in the health and well-being of their children. They have the power to influence help-seeking and the positive outcomes that can result. Alternatively, they also have the power to inhibit help seeking behaviors, ultimately making it more difficult for students to access the resources available to them in times of stress. One reason this may be is evidenced in a recent study by the JED Foundation, which found that 2/3 of parents believe it unlikely that their student will experience a mental health problem. Yet, based on a 2010 survey of Simpson students, the facts do not bear this out:
- 27% of students stated that they felt so depressed at some point in the previous year that it was difficult to function (i.e., get out of bed, get to class, fulfill responsibilities, etc.)
- 45% stated they felt overwhelming anxiety at some point in the previous year
- 48% reported feeling things were hopeless at some point in the previous year
- 7% reported seriously considering suicide, while 1% reported attempting suicide at some point in the previous year
In addition, the JED Foundation also found that 80% of parents were confident that they could identify a mental health problem in their children, but only 15% were able to name more than one or two signs of mental health struggles. This tells us that most parents are willing to talk with their students about their struggles, but don’t always know what to look for or when to treat signs and symptoms exhibited by their students as indicators of a more serious concern.
We offer the following information to help you prepare to have supportive and informed conversations with your students and to know who to turn to when you are concerned for your students:
- As is evidenced by the statistics listed above, mental health issues are very real and can be very serious amongst college students.
- Help-seeking is VERY normal. Here at Simpson College Counseling Services we see over 10% of the student body in individual counseling every year.
- Signs that something may be interfering with your student’s mental health or over all well-being include:
- Changes in sleep patterns (unusually more or unusually less sleep)
- Changes in eating patterns (more or less)
- Loss of motivation
- Difficulties with concentration and/or focus
- Not fulfilling obligations (attending class, turning in assignments, attending practices)
- Heightened emotionality (frequent tearfulness, more angry outbursts, irritability, etc)
- Loss of interest in pleasurable activities (not going out with friends, not enjoying normal hobbies, etc.)
- Changes in hygiene
- Hopelessness or worthlessness
- Frequent illness
- Constant worry
- Signs of self-injury
- Suicidal thoughts or frequent thoughts of or references to death
- If your student is exhibiting one or two of these symptoms it does not necessarily mean that there is something serious going on, but it does mean that there is a need and opportunity to talk with them about what is going on—ask them questions that help you know if your student is experiencing more of these symptoms (if you’re not sure how to do this contact Simpson College Counseling Services at 515-961-1556 for assistance).
- Often students experiencing these symptoms cannot simply “snap out of it”—they may be in need of help outside of themselves and outside of you as parents.
- If your student is giving any indication of suicidal thinking, ask them gently, caringly and directly if they are thinking about committing suicide—this will not put the idea in their head. You will never regret asking, but you may forever regret not asking.
- Know that there are resources available to you and your students both on and off campus:
- Simpson College Counseling Services 515-961-1556
- Simpson College Security 515-961-1711
- National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-8255
- American Red Cross Hotline 515-244-1010