Mental Health Disorders in College

mental health disorders

Families play a critically important role in the lives of young people in recovery. They are often the catalyst for a child seeking professional assistance for mental health disorders, and they also provide support at home.

Upon learning that a son or daughter is experiencing mental health or substance use problems, mothers and fathers struggle to determine the best course of action. They understand that expert help is necessary, but they may not want to derail their child’s life. Urging their kid to take a break from college often comes with a heavy heart.

Parents wanting their children to succeed in life is usually the main priority; they may hesitate to intervene or downplay the severity of the situation. It’s both understandable and risky because mental illnesses are not to be ignored.

In recent years it has come to light that college students are subject to significant amounts of stress. Without healthy coping mechanisms in place, such individuals are apt to experience severe anxiety or turn to self-defeating behaviors to weather the storm. Many young people engage in alcohol and drug use to manage their symptoms.

Higher education is extremely competitive, exorbitantly expensive, and classloads are daunting for most students. Given that teens push themselves to the limits in high school to get into a top university, by the time they get into the college of their choice, they are exhausted.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, roughly 32% of adolescents between the ages of 13 and 18 have an anxiety disorder. The American College Health Association reports that 60 percent of college students suffer from anxiety disorders and psychological distress.

Anxiety in College

Today is the conclusion of Mental Health Month. We want to direct parents and students to an NPR interview with Dr. Anthony Rostain, a professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, and B. Janet Hibbs, a family and couples psychotherapist.

Dr. Rostain and Hibbs authored The Stressed Years of Their Lives: Helping Your Kid Survive and Thrive During Their College Years, a new book about anxiety and stress in college.

“One of the reasons we wrote this book is not to scare parents, but to help them know what they can do to help,” said Hibbs. “When a child, for whatever reason, is hopeless or verging on that, families are incredibly, vitally important in maintaining hope. … Having the emotional expression of the family convey warmth, support, unconditional support, not judgment, that … is one of the best medicines.” 

The authors point out that kids today are being pushed extremely hard to succeed. They add that those with preexisting mental health conditions often let up on therapy once in school. Moreover, they point to research that shows only about one in four young people with suicidal ideation seek help. Rostain tells parents:

“Don’t be afraid of getting help from mental health professionals. We’re here to work with you and with your kids and we’re not here to blame you or to condemn you. So many parents face this fear of the shame or the embarrassment or the stigma, and what we think is the most deadly thing of all is not the mental illness, but the stigma around it that leads people to avoid getting the help in time.”

Self-Medicating Mental Health Disorders

Alcohol and substance use and abuse in college is often the result of untreated mental illness. Young men and women will turn to drugs and alcohol to escape their symptoms. The practice can result in the development of a use disorder on top of the mental health condition. It is critical that such people receive help for both issues simultaneously.

At Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat, we offer a substance use and co-occurring disorder treatment program for young adults. We invite you to contact us today to learn more about our services and begin the journey of recovery.