I was compensated by Med-IQ through an educational grant from Otsuka America Pharmaceutical, Inc. and Lundbeck to write about depression in college-aged students. All opinions are my own.

In my house, we talk about mental health. Anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder. I talk about it with my kids the same way we talk about sex, sexuality, alcohol, drugs, and really any other topic. We talk about the hard stuff as much as the easy stuff because I don’t want my kids to think one is more difficult to talk about than the other or that we require a serious sit-down meeting to discuss certain “heavy” topics. I watch my kids moods. I monitor their conversations. I talk to the parents of the kids my son and daughter hang out with. We have intervened a couple of times when the kids had an issue that got too big for them.

My son is a teenager now though, and I know he will likely start to pull away and want privacy. He may not want to talk to me about anything and everything. I worry about when he goes to college – how will I know he’s okay? When I ask him how he’s doing, will he give me an honest answer? What can I do to ensure he’s really safe and healthy?

The move from home to college is one of the biggest transitions in life. For some kids, it can trigger a depressive episode. And, because Lucas has ADHD, he is at significantly higher risk of one day developing depression. Statistics also tell me that, because he is male, social stigma may make it less likely that he would seek help for mental health issues. My daughter is at higher risk for developing depression simply by virtue of being female.

John F. Greden, MD, Founder and Executive Director of the University of Michigan Comprehensive Depression Center, says one of the most important things we can teach our kids is that mental health struggles are not a weakness. This is even more relevant if you have a boy or a student of color. Lingering social stigma often influences these students to be more hesitant to seek treatment. But mental health-related conditions are real and they are treatable, just like any other illness, and certainly nothing to be ashamed of.

The transition to college can be one of the most stressful events of life. It’s exciting for sure, but it can be terrifying, too. Starting a whole new life in a new location with new people and new responsibilities can leave many kids feeling unmoored, uncertain, and alone. 15-25% of college students will suffer from depression. 75% of mental health issues arise before the age of 24. These are sobering stats, but there are things we can do to help prevent our kids from experiencing depression when they go off on their own.

We can watch for signs of depression in our new college student, like a sudden lack of interest in things they previously found enjoyable, and we can simply ask them how they’re doing emotionally. There are great online tools available too, ones your child can use independently. Set to Go is a site where your teen can go to learn skills for how to manage stress as they transition from high school to college. I sent the link to my teenage son, and after he rolled his eyes at me, he admitted there were some good tips in there and he could see himself using the site as a reference.

Dr. Greden and the team at Med-IQ contacted me to see if I’d help in their mission to generate awareness around depression among teens and college-age kids. Med-IQ is an accredited medical education company serving physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and other healthcare professionals. They want to alert parents to the warning signs and to the different tools available online to screen for mental health issues and to provide techniques for managing stress.

Online screenings like this one from the University of Michigan or these online mental health tools can empower teens and young adults to advocate for themselves by assessing their own needs, planning around their stress triggers, and perhaps most importantly, knowing when to ask for help. Bookmark these tools so they’re handy for whenever you or your teen has a question or concern about their mental health.

And now I want to ask for your help – though there’s something potentially in it for you too. Med-IQ is conducting an anonymous survey and would appreciate your input. The survey, which includes additional education on this topic, will take less than 15 minutes to complete. Survey responses are shared only in aggregate. Your responses to these survey questions will provide Med-IQ with important information about your experiences with depression and mental health in your college-aged child, which will help us develop future educational initiatives.

Click HERE to take the survey.

Once you’ve completed the survey, you will have the option of providing your email address to be entered into a drawing administered by SOMA Strategies to win 1 of 10 $100 VISA gift cards. If you choose to enter, your email address will not be sold, kept, or stored; email addresses are used only to randomly draw the winners and notify them of their prize.

Thanks so much for your help with this, and I hope you find the tools provided here useful!

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