Mental Health Challenges Facing Teens & College Students - By: By Elena Zerpa, MD, Child and Adolescent Staff Psychiatrist

January 27th, 2017

Did you know suicide is the second most common cause of death among today’s college students? A growing number of students have significant psychological problems, with increased levels of stress, depression, and anxiety.

I believe this disturbing trend results from many factors. Today’s parents protect children and resolve their problems, rather than letting them make mistakes and learn from them. So, when difficulties occur as they adjust to college life, many can’t cope.

Learn more about the common mental health factors that affect teens and college students below.

Online Social Media and Mental Health

Social media puts tremendous pressure on teens. In this unreal world, everyone competes to be the one with the better life, better things. Kids feel, “If I didn’t go to that restaurant where everyone’s taking photos, I’m nobody.” They feel shame, which leads to poor self-esteem. Parents should teach kids from a young age that “This is your life. This is what we can afford.”

If you think your mental health is being affected by social media, we encourage you to reach out to the David Lawrence Center for support.

The Pressure & Stresses of College Life

In high school, a kid might have been the best student, the cool one, the great athlete. Then they get to college and everybody is equally impressive. Now they’re insecure, wondering “How do I stack up?” What’s more, until college, a child follows the parent’s script. Suddenly, in college, there’s no script. No one’s telling you when to wake up and go to sleep. You don’t do homework? You get a zero, not a second chance. The kids can’t handle it. Self-esteem comes tumbling down.

Red flags of serious mental or emotional problems in college students include the following:

  • Ignoring assignments or classes
  • Not waking up on-time
  • Sudden loss of friends, or is rejecting their friends
  • Normal routine changes
  • Weight goes up and down
  • Not showering
  • Staying away from social things and social interaction

How Can You Help?

Here’s how you can help: If you’re worried about your child’s mental health but they won’t talk openly to you, call their friends on campus or a dorm advisor. Get involved before there’s a problem: Early on, connect with a good friend of your child’s, and they will be your eyes. At least, get the phone numbers of a few friends.

If your child exhibits any warning signs, see if they will accept help. If not, call the school’s mental health hot line or a school counselor. If none of these actions are possible, travel to campus yourself.

If your child is already showing signs of serious mental illness – for example, hearing voices — before college, they should be stabilized before starting school. And take the pressure off regarding going to a top school; a state school may be a better choice. Show you are proud of them no matter what college they’re attending. Campus mental health providers are very overburdened, so if your child has mental health issues, find a provider near campus. Don’t wait till your child is in crisis. The same way you look for beautiful wall art and a great room, look for an excellent mental health provider.

Get the help your child needs today by contacting our mental health professionals at David Lawrence Center.

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