As many students head back to school it is important to be aware of the variety of factors that can impact student’s mental health and well-being. While we have two years of navigating COVID-19 under our belts, this year is the first time many students will return to campus, walk around maskless, and still try to define their own sense of normal.
To help further the conversation around supporting student mental health, our VP of Clinical Programs – Nathaan Demers, Psy.D. – sat down with NPR to discuss how to identify behavior change, have honest discussions around mental health, and proactive strategies for ensuring students get access to help if, and when, they need it.
Check out an excerpt below and read the full article on NPR.
“One thing that can admittedly be challenging,” Demers acknowledges, is that “a lot of the common signs of the onset of mental health symptoms are very much those of major transitions.”
Things like changes in sleep, increased irritability, increased weight gain or changes in appetite can signal to clinicians that there may be an underlying issue. But for incoming college students, he adds, “a lot of those things can naturally happen … with students going away from home for the first time.”
There is no perfect answer, so Demers says to trust your gut. “Parents know their kids better than anyone else,” and often they can sense when something isn’t right. “There’s a difference between, ‘Oh, my son or daughter is having a challenging day or a challenging week’ versus ‘something just seems off.'”
For younger students, one of the most common warning signs is irritability with school or teachers, says Martini at the University of Utah. He notes that for younger students, irritability with teachers has been a recent trend in classrooms. “Particularly when you’re dealing with young children, there is a tendency to blame the school teachers and principals for some of the challenges they’re having,” he says.