Does Your College Student Know Where to Find Mental Health Support?
Jonathan stood at the curb, watching his parents drive till they were out of sight. He felt lost. Vulnerable. Tired. He didn’t know much about mental health issues in college students … or even first graders, for that matter.
Jonathan had been depressed most of his life. His parents noticed the pain in his eyes from the time he was a preschooler, and tried to help in every way they could. He was their first child, and they didn’t recognize he needed professional help.
His sadness and social anxiety held him back in countless situations. He was very bright and did well in school, but socially he was isolated much of the time. He searched early, and visited colleges with his parents. But contributed very little to the decision.
They chose a small private college, where student/faculty ratio was intimate and friendly. And when it was time to go, they packed him up and drove the 4 hours to the campus. He followed as they carried his belongings to his dorm room. Afterwards, they all went to dinner, then back to the dorm. Hugs all around with words of encouragement. And they left.
Jonathan had no idea what he would do. As time moved on, he tried very hard to do well in his classes. But his energy for it eventually faded. And after a year he told his parents he wanted to leave school. He withdrew, packed up his belongings, and drove away.
Treating Mental Health Issues in College Students – A BIG Problem
A rising problem in the US education system is the minimal attention given to the mental health of students — especially college students.
Since 80% of incoming freshmen are 18, some 17 or younger, and others 19 or older, most of these students are still very much adolescent. Add to that the fact that 75% of psychiatric disorders are diagnosed before the age of 24, and you can see that the college years are predisposed to turmoil for many kids.
And if you don’t really believe your student is susceptible to mental health issues, think about this: 45% of parents say their child has been diagnosed or treated for a psychiatric disorder. Add to that: those who need help but haven’t sought it. Those who are afraid … of stigma, cost, and the rumors they’ve heard about psychotropic medications. Or children of parents who are misinformed.
Do the math, and you’ll see that your daughter or son has more than a 50/50 chance of needing psychiatric treatment in the years ahead.
How Common are Psychiatric Symptoms in Teens?
A survey was conducted with 712 parents of children in grades 9-12 and first year of college this past fall. The question asked if their child had been diagnosed or treated for anxiety disorders, stress, mood disorders, learning disabilities, self injury or suicide attempts, and more.
A full 20% reported anxiety disorders, 18% reported stress, 17% reported mood disorders, and 17% reported learning disabilities. These are parents whose children have been diagnosed or treated.
Of the same group of parents, 54% said their children had not been diagnosed or treated for a psychiatric illness.
Not because they hadn’t seen symptoms. But because they had not sought treatment. Some percentage of that 54% includes families with psychiatric suffering that they’re not recognizing or acknowledging.
Some People Don’t Believe in Psychiatric Illness…Still
There are still factions of society in this 21st century world who still don’t believe in the validity of psychiatric illness.
So, if they’re faced with it in a child, they consider these disordered behaviors as a lack of discipline, or misbehavior, or rebellion. So they apply more discipline to the situation. Consequences maybe. But nothing that treats the very real symptoms in the brain.
When teens from that kind of home environment enter the university environment, we see symptoms emerge that often require attention. The stress, the social pressure, and exhaustion from disordered sleep patterns sometimes lead to a crisis … sometimes even a need for hospitalization.
And again, by the way, the years a student spends in college coincide with the years the largest number of people in the 15-24 age group are diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder. Is there any wonder why…?
The Need for Diagnosis and Treatment in College is Steadily Rising
The Center for Collegiate Mental Health reported in 2017 that the demand for mental health services on college campuses has increased continuously over the last seven years. Hands down, the most often repeated request is for counseling for anxiety and depression.
Parents who were surveyed listed their top criteria in choosing a university with their child. Those criteria included things like affordability, distance from home, academic reputation … but mental health services weren’t included on that list.
While it may not be all that unreasonable that parents don’t automatically explore availability of mental health services in the colleges they consider, you probably should place these services high on your list. It’s just smart.
Get Your Student in Touch with Mental Health Services Near His Campus
If your son or daughter is already seeing a counselor or psychiatrist, continuing treatment or finding mental health professionals they can trust on campus or nearby could make the difference in their academic success or failure. Cradling the idea that he or she can just “wing it” is not a recipe for satisfactory outcomes.
On the other hand, if your child has shown no signs of psychiatric stress or disorder, just be aware, and stay informed. The student with the highest performance in high school can still develop depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder in college. That’s not to say your child will fail. Not by a long shot.
But in far too many cases, parents are caught by surprise when a child with excellent performance falls into severe depression … and just withdraws and shuts down.
High Performance Students May Suffer Burnout
Sarafina was voted Most Likely to Succeed in high school, along with Class President, Homecoming Queen, and president of the honor society. She was hard working and disciplined, and maintained a 4.0 GPA even with a part-time job. When she started college, she got a work-study job on campus from the very beginning, and secured loans for her tuition.
She worked tirelessly toward her goal of acceptance into medical school.
But during her third year, something began to go wrong. Stressors that included unstable family members, a volatile political environment on campus, and the pressures of school and work finally capsized her ability to function. She had to withdraw from classes to seek psychiatric treatment for bipolar disorder, complicated by way too much drinking.
She just couldn’t do it any longer.
This is not an uncommon scenario with high achieving students. In some cases, the years of strain to get ahead, the sacrifices… and the pressure, culminate in an overwhelmingly bad place.
There Is Effective Treatment Available Now
And…even if they don’t, there is IV ketamine treatment.
Ketamine treatment for psychiatric mood disorders uses a tiny dose compared to the small amount used for anesthesia. We give these doses 3 times a week for a 2-3 weeks, depending on your individual needs.
Ketamine turns on mRNA to switch on DNA that turbo boosts the Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF). BDNF is like a rich compost…that infuses dendrites and stokes neuronal (brain cell) connections, called synapses.
These dendrites branch out in fast motion to create dense dendritic spines, causing the signaling system in your brain to bloom like tomatoes at the county fair. When that happens, the signals start flying around in your brain connecting your thoughts, emotions, and well-being and bringing healthy, alert stimulation and balance.
At the same time, ketamine can erase suicidal thinking. Why is that important? Because there is no medication besides ketamine that has been shown to stop suicidal thinking in 4 hours or less. This is life-saving for someone in crisis, intent on suicide.
Your son? Your daughter? …You?
The second highest cause of death in college-age students? Suicide.
This is serious, and can mean life or death for the child you love. The best protection for your child is prevention. And after that, treatment. Ketamine treatment can prevent suicide now.
Innovative Psychiatry Treats Your High School or College Student
And, if you do have a teen who exhibits signs or symptoms of anxiety, depression, social anxiety, panic disorder, bipolar disorder, PTSD, OCD, or thoughts of suicide, call us. The earlier they receive effective treatment, the higher their prospects of recovery.
At Innovative Psychiatry, we see 80% of treatment-resistant psychiatric mood disorder cases achieve remission with IV ketamine treatment. Eighty Percent!
Let us help you and your family restore, rejuvenate, and rebuild on solid, healthy ground.
To the restoration of your best, happy self,
Lori Calabrese, MD