Today is Mental Health Blog Day – an effort to help raise awareness that May is Mental Health Month. And it seems really fitting that we talk about mental health because it is a) part of Wake Forest’s Thrive efforts on holistic wellbeing, and b) mental health is critically important to all of us, but perhaps especially to college students.
I am not a clinician and cannot offer medical or psychological advice. But as one who meets with a fair number of students and talks to even more parents as part of my job, I hear about a lot of issues. Many students will experience some type of emotional or mental health issue while in college – it could be homesickness, stress, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and a whole host of other things. Students may have issues of their own, or they could be concerned about a friend who seems to be struggling and they don’t know how to help.
Some students seem willing and comfortable to seek out help when they need it – and that is a wonderful thing. For many others, they have not ever been in a counseling situation before and don’t know what to expect. We don’t want the fear of the unknown to keep a student from seeking out services that might be beneficial, so with the help of my colleague James Raper, Director of the University Counseling Center, we drafted a description of what the first University Counseling Center appointment and subsequent appointments look like at Wake Forest.
You can help your students by being aware that counseling resources exist on campus and encouraging your student to seek support when needed. My impression is that some students are reluctant or afraid to tell their parents about seeking counseling because they don’t want to worry their parents or they think their parents would be upset/disapproving to find out they are seeing a counselor.
If your student doesn’t know that you would be supportive of him or her seeking help if needed, the summer is a great time to have that conversation. Let your student know you love and support him or her no matter what, and that mental health is a priority. Sometimes hearing that it’s OK from mom, dad, or another family member can be the catalyst to students feeling empowered to take care of their mental health.
From my own personal experience, I found it difficult to do well at school if there was an area of my life that was out of balance or needed attention. For example, if I was not getting enough sleep, it was hard for me to do my best in the classroom and be focused. It worked the same with mental health and emotional wellbeing – I couldn’t do my best work if I was under too much stress or anxiety. But once I addressed those issues, everything else fell into place much easier.
We want all our students to thrive across every dimension of their wellbeing. We want to help them grow, learn, and be resilient. Parents are our partners in this journey. The University Counseling Center website has an excellent section just for parents that I commend to you.
And while I am making my wish list…
Let’s get help when we need it.
And support others when they need it.
And allow ourselves to feel what we feel.
Let’s talk about mental health. For the good of all of us.