Health, academic success and emotional well-being are all connected. Whether you have a first year student or an upperclassman, summer is a great time to help your student take stock of her health and make a plan to stay well in the coming academic year. (Take a look at our “Checklist of Summer Wellness Tasks” and get a head start!)
|Parents of incoming freshmen: Your student is about to take full responsibility for her own physical, mental and emotional health. Use this summer to give her some of the tools she needs to become an independent adult (the “Checklist” above has plenty of tips). Make sure you have a plan for continued care of any existing conditions.||Parents of current college students: The end of the school year takes a toll on health and students often come home exhausted or even ill. When your student is back on her feet, check in with her about mental, emotional and physical well-being. Encourage her to work on healthy habits over the summer and make a plan to continue them when her workload increases again in the fall.|
While aspects of physical health may be more visible, mental and emotional well-being have an equal bearing on your student’s happiness and success. I spoke with Dr. Victor Schwartz to learn what parents should know about mental and emotional health in college. Victor is the Medical Director of The JED Foundation, a non-profit promoting emotional health and suicide prevention among college/university students. He also spent 24 years working with students at Yeshiva University and NYU.
Victor informed me that, when it comes to mental health, there are a couple of factors that make the college years especially challenging. “Just from a clinical perspective, the period from 18 to 25 is when many psychiatric illnesses present themselves,” Victor notes.
This can be compounded by the fact that it’s usually students’ first time living away from home. “It’s a period when students are moving from a more controlled environment to college, where they’re deciding their own life direction,” he says.
This should not affect your student’s admittance; in fact, schools prefer to have this information in order to ensure the proper resources are in place. If your student is currently in treatment, use the summer to set up continuation of treatment for the fall, and be sure to fill out the proper paperwork to allow the clinicians to communicate with one another or with you.
Victor says that if you have a concern and reach out to the dean of students or counseling services, they should work with you to listen and determine a plan of action. Because of the Family Educational Right to Privacy Act (FERPA), the school is restricted from telling you certain information about your student, including whether or not she is attending counseling. However, this law does not prevent you from sharing your concerns.
Victor encourages parents to think of mental and emotional health as they do physical health. “Just as with physical illness, there is a range,” he says. Mental or emotional problems aren’t necessarily lifelong affairs; “in young people these things are often developmental.” The important thing is to address problems if they arise. Part of the reason Victor finds working with college students so rewarding is that treatment really does help. “It’s an area where you can really make a profound difference in someone’ s life.”
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