Heading off to college can be a difficult transition for anyone, but the adjustment can be even trickier for those with – or a history of – mental health problems.
Susan LaVelle Ficke PysD, a clinical psychologist for TriHealth’s School-Based Behavioral Health Services, shares four tips for making the shift to college life a little easier.
#1: Determine How Close to Home Your Child Should Be
Before your child officially chooses a college, first ask:
- How debilitating is the mental health condition?
- How much support from family does he or she currently get or need?
For example, if your child receives a significant amount of support from friends or family, then it would make more sense to choose a college within a reasonable driving distance from home. This way, he or she can live at home and commute, or, if he or she does live on campus, you’ll be close enough for emergency situations.
#2: Note Resources on Campus
Many colleges and universities have counseling centers available on campus. Or, your son or daughter’s current mental healthcare provider may be able to provide information online.
On the other hand, if they don’t have a counseling center or your child doesn’t want to use that service, you could find a private practitioner in the area. “But, I think if they currently have services and they are moving off to college, I think it can be really helpful for their current psychologist or mental health provider to be able to talk to the person that they are going to start seeing at college, just to help with continuity of care,” Susan points out.
#3: Be Aware of Confidentiality Restrictions in Place
Once your child turns 18, there are more confidentiality laws in place. “They won’t be able to get information about their child’s treatment from the therapist without their child’s permission," Susan says. “But, they can share information with that therapist without that therapist breaking confidentiality."
Susan recommends talking to your child if you have any questions and says not to do anything behind his or her back, to avoiding breaking trust.
#4: Make Sure Your Child is Prepared to Live Independently
Regardless of whether your child has a mental or behavioral health problem, he or she should be equipped to live independently once they reach adulthood. “They should know how to access the things they need, like medical care, that they know how to do laundry or address their meal card if there’s a problem with it. They should have the basic skills for independence so they don’t have those things contribute further to stress or anxiety,” Susan explains.