If you’ve just seen your university-aged child off to school, you are probably torn between feelings of pride and dread. It’s an exciting time — they’ve worked hard, got accepted to university, and in many cases, flown the coop. But it’s not an easy transition.
University life can be stressful, with tough and often competing demands — and the timing aligns with a period in young adulthood in which the risk for psychosis and mood disorders is developing. Plus, if you happen to be one of the many “helicopter” parents out there, your child might not be well versed in facing failure or coping with stress.
As the psychiatrist-in-chief at the University of Toronto’s Health and Wellness Centre, I spend a lot of time thinking about the mental health of university students. It’s an area of huge concern. In the 2016 National College Health Assessment survey of university students across Canada, 44 per cent reported feeling so depressed at some point within the past year that it was difficult to function. Sixty-five per cent had felt overwhelming anxiety. And 13 per cent had seriously contemplated suicide within the past year.
University life can be stressful, with tough and often competing demands. Students need to make taking care of their mental health a priority. (RICK MADONIK / TORONTO STAR)
So what can a caring parent do to “be there” for their university-aged child’s mental health — even when they aren’t actually there, geographically? Here are some tips:
Plan beyond academics — consider health and wellness
Help foster a circle of connectedness
Co-ordinate continued care for mental health diagnosis
Keep in touch
You can find out more about mental health at U of T here: http://mentalhealth.utoronto.ca/