Simone Hoermann, Ph.D., is a Psychologist in private practice in New York City. She specializes in providing psychotherapy for Personality Disorders, Anxiety, and Depression
The college years are usually glorified as a carefree time of fun and party, and many students believe that they’re supposed to be the best years of your life. The truth is, a whole lot of students are pretty miserable. In reality, college is a rather difficult time for most. For example, it’s about facing the challenge of leaving home for the first time, making new friends, figuring out how you fit in, and separating from your parents. Many students face pressures they’ve never experienced before, and those probably include the rather overwhelming question of what to do about your entire future, including your career. Anxiety around performance can become paralyzing, and social anxiety and insecurity frequently lead to isolation and depression. Some students get themselves into big trouble with substance abuse. The college years are also often a time when traits and symptoms of personality disorders, bipolar disorders or psychotic disorders first start to emerge. Obviously, none of that is a small order, and there’s unfortunately still a lot of stigma and shame attached to having any of these difficulties. Should you seek help, and where do you turn if you’re worried about a friend? Parents, from their end, are often struggling during this period, too. How do you separate and let go, and in what ways can you or should you support?
With summer break approaching, many students are going back home with the first year under their belt, albeit after having had a hard year. Recently, a number of people have asked me about services for college students, so that students can get help in working on their difficulties over the summer break in order to feel better prepared for the next year – which is why I thought I’d mention a few notable resources in this blog.
The Jed Foundation: Half of Us
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A good starting point and an invaluable source of information and support is the Jed Foundation, founded by Donna and Phil Satow after they tragically lost their own son to suicide. The foundation offers a wealth of information and resources on their website. In order to help decrease stigma, the foundation has teamed up with mtvU for the Half of Us campaign. The Half of Us website offers videos in which students and prominent artists such as Mary J. Blige, Pete Wenz, or Billy Corgan, share their personal stories in order to help increase awareness and decrease stigma.
The Jed Foundation: Ulifeline
For students, Ulifeline has compiled information about campus mental health services for over 1200 colleges and universities. The goal is to make the rather intimidating process of seeking mental health services as easy and convenient for students as possible. In this vein, the website offers anonymous access to a comprehensive database of campus student counseling services and their address and contact information, and for those in immediate crisis, the phone number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) is displayed prominently on every webpage. The student section also has plenty of educational material on various issues related to anxiety, depression, grief, or substance use. There’s also some really important information on how to help a friend who is depressed, and what to do when you’re concerned about someone else.
The Jed Foundation: Transition Year Project
For parents, the Jed foundation has launched a new campaign in collaboration with the American Psychiatric Foundation, called Transition Year Project. Later this year, after an extensive survey of parents with college age children, the foundation plans to publish a guidebook for parents that should offer information on how to best support your child in this critical transitional period from high school to college. A particularly helpful feature is the “Ask The Expert” tool that allows parents to ask health care professionals for advice.
The Menninger Clinic
Another noteworthy service is the Menninger Clinic’s Compass Young Adult Program, geared for people between ages 18 and 30. The goal is to help people who have difficulty functioning in college or at work, and who need inpatient level of care. The focus of the program is on the transition from adolescence into adulthood, and helping people with some of the very serious trials and tribulations that may come with that. Difficulties addressed at the Compass Program include Mood Disorders such as Depression or Bipolar Disorder, Anxiety Disorder, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Personality Disorders, or Attention Deficit Disorder. This also includes situations in which a person may have self-esteem issues that interfere with their ability to function, or engage in self-destructive and self-injurious behaviors. A thorough evaluation process with different types of medical and psychological tests is at the beginning of the treatment process, which can consist of individual and group therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, addictions counseling, family meetings, and therapeutic activities and recreation. Of note, the Menninger Clinic is one of the few places that formally incorporates Mentalization Based Therapy into the treatment approach.
Columbia College Student Program
Lastly, let me also briefly mention the program I work for – the East 60th Street Day Treatment Program in the Columbia University Department of Psychiatry, offers a college student program that meets up to five days a week on an outpatient basis (meaning, people live at home and attend the program during the day). The program primarily offers group treatment, with psychiatrists and psychologists available for people who don’t have an outside individual provider. Schedules are tailored to the needs of the individual client and can consist of supportive groups, Cognitive-Behavior Therapy groups, Dialectical Behavior Therapy skills training groups, substance abuse recovery groups, and eating disorder groups.
I hope you’ll find this information useful. If you know of any other helpful resources for college students, please let me know or post in a comment below.
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