“Mom, I’ve been admitted to a psychiatric hospital.”
These are the last words any parent expects to hear after sending their child off to college, but parents are hearing them at an increasing rate. Psychiatric hospitalizations for college students have tripled in the last two decades. I’ve witnessed this increase in the college counseling center where I have worked since 1993. I’ve also seen the powerful ways parents can intervene to promote wellness and recovery.
Why have psychiatric hospitalization rates gone up? One possible explanation for this increase is that students are experiencing mental health problems at a much higher rate. One of three college students were diagnosed with or treated for a mental health disorder in the last year. One of ten students seriously considered suicide and 1.7 percent of students attempted suicide.
What kinds of problems will bring a student to a psychiatric hospital? Some students go to the hospital voluntarily when they are feeling suicidal and want to be in a safe setting to begin treatment. Others may be involuntarily committed to the hospital when they are judged to be a danger to themselves and will not sign into the hospital, like someone who is having a psychotic episode and hearing voices telling them to harm themselves. Problems with addiction and eating disorders can also lead someone to the hospital if their lives are judged to be at risk.
What should you do if your college student is in a psychiatric hospital? You can be a tremendous source of support for your child during this stressful time. Ideally, your child has signed a release of information form allowing you to be involved in treatment planning and post-hospitalization care. Most hospitals will encourage parent collaboration, as studies show people are at increased risk for suicide during the months post-psychiatric hospitalization. The support of family, friends, and care providers is essential.
Here are steps you can take to help.
Remind yourself and your child that people recover from mental health issues with therapy and/or medication as well as lifestyle approaches including strong social support, healthy eating, exercise, mindfulness meditation, and avoidance of drugs. In my years of practice, I’ve seen students recover from two or three hospitalizations and go on to lead happy and productive lives. Some even go into the mental health field and call on their experiences to understand and help others. Teach your children that even when they feel engulfed in darkness, there is hope and light around the corner.
My book, The Campus Cure: A Parent's Guide to Mental Health and Wellness for College Students, was recently released.
©2018 Marcia Morris, All Rights Reserved.
Details have been altered to protect patient privacy.
If you’re interested in reading about a particular topic, please email me at email@example.com