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Mental Health and the Transition to College

Monitoring and early support are key during this important time.

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As we discussed in a recent article, the pressure of the college experience can be intense and overwhelming for young adults. And mental health is one of the most important areas to monitor during this important time.

In a recent press release sponsored by Alkermes — who are focused on supporting young adult students and their community as they navigate the transition to college — important statistics were emphasized, with the underlying message that help is readily available for any student who is struggling.

There are many symptoms to look for that could indicate emerging mental health challenges. These may include 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.

If one or several of these symptoms is present, it’s important to take note and seek support as early as possible. Here are some things to keep in mind:

• Take stock of what’s happening. Track the most concerning behaviors (those listed above or others). This will help when seeking additional resources or support from a healthcare professional (a primary care physician, psychiatrist, etc.) in the future. To assist in tracking what you’re feeling, consider accessing local resources or taking an online screening tool to better understand your symptoms.

• Keep talking. Ask questions and set aside time to talk about how everyone is feeling – student, parents, siblings, friends and more. Consider asking other loved ones if they’ve noticed any concerning behavioral changes.

• Speak to a healthcare professional. Set up an appointment during school breaks and make sure that you discuss mental health, the college transition and any behavioral changes you might notice. 

• Act as quickly as you can. When dealing with a young adult’s mental health, timing matters. In fact, some studies point to early identification and intervention as being critical to disease management and improved outcomes.1,3 Early detection, accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment can assist in illness management and long-term outcomes for individuals living with a serious mental illness.

For important sources for the above statistics and advice, please read this press release. And be ready for a third article in this series on transitioning to college, coming later this semester.

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