A Mental Health Checklist for College Students and Their Parents

This post is a companion piece to our article, “Prioritizing Mental Health for College Students,” by educational consultant, Andrew Bryan, where we proposed prioritizing a healthy lifestyle of restful sleep, consistent exercise, a protein-based diet, and limited alcohol/drug use to fortify mental health.

The transition to college can be a challenging time, especially for students with pre-existing mental health issues and those who are recently struggling. To help navigate this journey, we’ve created a comprehensive checklist for college students and their parents.

For College Students:

Find Local Healthcare Providers: If attending college out of state, your previous healthcare providers may no longer be able to treat you. While university counseling services are an option, they deal primarily with short-term challenges such as relationship issues, general anxiety, and common stressors. Finding local doctors and therapists is crucial for managing ongoing mental health diagnoses.

Pharmacy Planning: Identify a nearby pharmacy that’s convenient and ensure they can fulfill your medication needs. If you need a local physician to request a new prescription, have your current doctor prescribe enough medication to last until you can establish local healthcare.

Complete Student Services/Disability Paperwork: If you need academic accommodations, apply for disability status through your university’s online portal, like Accommodate, Make sure you have an electronic copy of your neuro/psych evaluation to attach to the application. This evaluation can be a powerful asset which can assist you in obtaining other accommodations such as parking permits and other services that may be hard to get. 

Secure Academic Accommodations: It’s crucial to set up the accommodations you need before you need them. Although you might provide proof of disability status and receive a list of accommodations on Accomodate, the University might require an in-person meeting or email interaction with professors before the accommodations can be employed.  Meet with your professors to arrange them. 

Seek Out Peer Support Group: Many universities offer student-run peer support groups where you can connect with others facing similar challenges. You might even find fulfillment in becoming a support group leader. 

Consider Academic Support: Educational consultant, Andrew Bryan, uses the phrase “no one goes it alone toward success”––meaning it is best to find various supports to help. Colleges provide academic resources right on campus including math labs, writing centers, career services and more. Take advantage of these services as you’re paying for them. Depending on your needs, you may want additional support such as an academic tutor or executive functioning coach.

Get Involved in Extracurriculars: Engagement in extracurricular activities can be the antidote to feelings of loneliness and isolation that can co-occur with mental health issues. Universities offer hundreds of clubs and organizations, catering to diverse interests and passions. Whether you’re into intramural sports, artistic pursuits, volunteer work, or niche hobbies, there’s likely a group that aligns with your preferences. Joining clubs provides an opportunity to connect with like-minded peers, fosters personal growth, and enhances your sense of belonging.

For Parents:

Power of Attorney for Healthcare/HIPAA: Given that college students are typically over 18, HIPAA rules restrict parents’ access to healthcare information. Prepare for potential emergencies by obtaining power of attorney. Find forms at mamabearlegalforms.com.

Hospitalization Awareness: Be aware that if your college student is hospitalized for any reason, parents may lose decision-making control, including the ER physician’s determination of admission for a 72-hour hold. Power of attorney may help mitigate this challenging situation.

Medication Modifications: Finding the right medication for anyone addressing mental health issues can be a trial-and-error process. Some medications work for some people and not others. Most medications have significant side-effects such as extreme drowsiness or cystic acne. Changing medication regimes, while sometimes necessary, can throw students off balance. In emergency situations, physicians may prescribe medications such as benzodiazepines, more commonly known as Valium or Xanax. Be cautious about their use and they should only be used for a short duration (two weeks) and require a lengthy weaning process after extended use.

As you support your college student’s mental health needs during their college experience, remember you’re not alone. Numerous resources and communities are available to assist you every step of the way.

The information provided is to be used for educational purposes only. It shouldn’t be used as a substitute for seeking medical care.

Throughout the “Sandwich Years” section of this blog, we will provide you support for launching children into adulthood while caring for aging parents.

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