THINK ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES WHEN CHOOSING A COLLEGE
As we are all aware, the pandemic has strained our teenagers in many ways. They have experienced significant feelings of isolation, depression, and anxiety. Having so little contact with peers and caring adults--at exactly the time in their lives where those relationships are so critical--has made many feel lost and unmotivated. Many are just “doing” school--doing enough just to get by.
Many seniors have applied to college in this environment and soon they will be deciding which college to attend. It is too soon to tell the real impact of COVID19 on our teens, but it is not unreasonable to assume that many will still be dealing with anxiety and depression as they descend on college campuses in the fall, especially if things aren’t quite back to “normal.”
Families should do their due diligence--even if they think their kids are doing just fine--to understand the mental health supports that the colleges that they are looking at provide.
Ron Lieber’s excellent book, The Price We Pay For College, dedicates a chapter to mental health and suggests some of these questions:
Is there an Active Minds chapter on campus? Is it active? (Active Minds is an organization that supports mental health and awareness on college campuses).
What services and supports does the counseling center provide?
Is there crisis counseling available 24/7?
Are there waiting lists to get appointments?
Are there appointments available on weekends or during evenings?
How often are students able to see therapists? Once a week?
Are there caps on the number of sessions a student can have?
What is the student-to-counselor ratio?
Can the counseling center provide any information on outcomes?
Are referrals to outside providers available? Is it convenient for a student to get to those referrals?
How is the campus attempting to reduce mental health stigma?
Is the college part of the JED Foundation? JED partners with colleges to strengthen their mental health and suicide prevention programs. Over 270 colleges participate in JED Campus and receive guidance on creating comprehensive systems, programs, and support. Go to https://www.jedfoundation.org/ to learn more.
The other thing to remember is that if your kid is struggling, please let the college they’ll be attending know. Trust me, they want to know what is going on. The more our kids are supported during college, the better for everyone!