Maintaining good mental health is an important concern, especially during the teen years. Rates of depression and anxiety disorders are on the rise; substance abuse, eating disorders and suicide are widespread as well. Applying to college and moving away from home can create added stress, so it’s critical for students to be emotionally ready and to obtain the supports they need.
For optimal mental health in college, it is crucial to:
Foster emotional self-awareness. Know which conditions you’ve been vulnerable to, such as panic attacks or addictive gaming. Be attuned to your most common symptoms or “red flags,” such as sleep disruption, irritability, missing deadlines, social isolation, skipping meals or excessive social media use. Be honest with yourself if you are seeing any of these patterns.
Develop a list of go-to techniques for managing your moods. These could include music, nature walks, meditation, journaling, talking to others or even watching kitten videos. Be consistent with the basics: good nutrition, adequate sleep and regular exercise.
Know the available supports – and use them. Colleges typically have free counseling available, but the type and amount of services offered may vary. If you need special accommodations for learning differences or emotional challenges, contact the disability services office early on. The mental health support group Active Minds is present on over 500 campuses, and many “JED” campuses have made a commitment to mental health as well. There are clubs for minority, international or LGBTQ+ students. A number of colleges have wellness living-learning communities that provide a healthy, supportive residential environment, and some have self-help groups or programs for students in recovery from addictions.
Sometimes a gap year before college, or time off during college, is necessary for students to function at their best. Many programs are available to help students in these situations. At TCC, we assess students’ college readiness and recommend specific programs and resources. We are dedicated to making sure teens are emotionally prepared to transition to college successfully.