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Getting Mental Health Help During the College Transition

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By Madison White

In part two of a three-part series, Alkermes explores even deeper the effects on mental health that college has. In this portion, they are focusing more specifically on how the major transition period that college students go through could affect students’ mental health.

Research suggests that around one-third of college students show symptoms related to mental illness. With this being such a significant portion, students and parents should be well equipped to seek out help for their child that may be going through this.

Mental health symptoms can be somewhat tricky to navigate as some of them could just be short-term effects of moving and adjusting to a new environment and lifestyle. Some commons ones could be “feelings of sadness or fear, bouts of depression, loss of appetite, sudden risk-tasking behavior, seeing or believing things that may not be real, excessive substance use, mood swings, impulsive behavior, difficulty concentrating or a drop in academic performance.” While these symptoms may be part of the adjustment and transition, they could also be signs of other, more serious mental health illnesses. If your student is showing any of these behaviors, you may want to open up a discussion about mental health.

It is important to note that these symptoms may be apparent during both school term and during holidays, which can sometimes be for extended periods of time. This can cause some issues as students who have recently left home may not know how to seek help in a new environment. Alternatively, students that have adjusted and found resources during the university term may find themselves struggling when they are back at home for the holidays or left without help when the school shuts down.

These changes and challenges can be intensified by the students’ new independence. Because they may have grown distant from family members and old friends, it could be difficult for those people to understand their new life and feel comfortable talking about it. Wherever you may be in your transition to college, it is important to have some connections and people that you can rely on. While some family and friends may not completely understand, they may still be able to offer advice and support that will help you greatly.

As noted before, symptoms of mental health can be tricky to diagnose properly on your own, so if you are showing symptoms, it is best to seek help soon. There is really no downside to seeking help and many campuses have a wealth of resources to help students.

Alkermes has offered some key things to do when you or someone you know may be experiencing mental health issues.

1. Track concerning behavior. While at first, it may seem silly to keep track of moods and habits, especially if you aren’t proud of them, these can really make a huge difference when seeking help. Having a record of what you’ve been going through helps you remember and not brush off what is going on. It also helps health professionals, like psychologists and psychiatrists, better identify what is going on and how to help. If you aren’t quite sure how you’re feeling, there are lots of self-assessment tests and information online that may help.

2. Keep talking. Make sure that you are checking in with the people in your life. It may also be a good idea to ask others if they have noticed any changes in you. This could be helpful if others are noticing things that you may have overlooked.

3. Seek professional help. Set up appointments when you can. It may be especially important to schedule some either right before or right after school breaks so that you can try and keep your progress as consistent as possible. Additionally, you may want to seek out someone to talk to in your home town if you will be away from campus for a while.

4. Act quickly. While it may be tempting to push things aside, studies show that early identification and help can make a huge difference.

The college transition is an especially tumultuous time as students have to adjust to new places, people, and expectations. Make sure that you are checking in with yourself and the people around you who may benefit from seeking out help.

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