The transition from high school to college can seem frightening for any high school senior. However, for those who deal with mental health struggles, this transition can be a lot more distressing. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 20% of American youth ages 13-18 live with a mental health condition. Although some may believe that they have things under control, mental health recovery is a journey. There are ups and downs, and stressful events and leaving home and going to college can be a time where mental health struggles are amplified.
Three Things You Can Do To Help Yourself Before You Embark on this Transition
Know your resources
Find out about mental health resources on your campus. Many universities offer consultations, referrals to community resources, crisis hotlines, and even counseling services. Also, it is helpful to know about the academic resources offered because finding yourself in a tough situation with school work can be much more stressful if you do not know who to turn to. Find out information about tutoring services, writing centers, and what your academic advisor can do to help you.
Set up a line of communication
If you are comfortable with speaking to a therapist from home, you can ask to set up a schedule for phone calls. It can be comforting to know you have someone familiar to speak with. Similarly, it may be useful to find a therapist near your new school; you can create a plan to talk with them as well.
Prepare for an environment with heavy alcohol and drug use
Alcohol and drugs are very prevalent on college campuses. Often, people think that drinking will help them relax. However, alcohol can increase stress and anxiety. If you struggle with an anxiety disorder, you may worry about what you said or did while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Be aware that if you use substances to mask your anxiety, you can become reliant on it, which can be the start of a vicious cycle. It is essential to keep this in mind as you enter college where alcohol and drugs are easily accessible.
Three things you can do when you get to school
Don’t isolate yourself
It is very common to feel lonely when you first arrive at college. Remember that this loneliness is not permanent, and eventually, you will find your place and your people. Although you may feel more comfortable just sitting in your room, isolation can contribute to depression and missed opportunities. Instead, you should get involved in something you’re interested in. There are hundreds of college organizations to join that cover a variety of interests. Start with an organization or club based around something you already like. This is a great way to make friends and meet others who are likeminded. Putting yourself out there, opening up, and being friendly may be hard in the short term but will help avoid the negative impact isolation can have on mental health.
Ask for help
Classwork can be much more demanding than in high school. There is no shame in asking professors, peers, or advisors for help. Also, reaching out to other students can be a great resource. You don’t have to deal with this transition alone.
Make time for yourself
Make your well-being a priority. Don’t overbook yourself, and be realistic about what you can handle. It is easy to get overwhelmed in a new environment so remember to take breaks. It can be helpful to take time to practice mindfulness; there are several apps you can use such as headspace or calm.