College student? What you should know about mental health and getting help.
Updated: Oct 3, 2019
Young, college age adults have unique struggles that can result in the need for mental health care. It is a time of many life transitions including possibly the first time they are separated from their families and hometown friends as they begin to experience more autonomy. Although these changes can be exciting, they can also be anxiety provoking, challenging and frightening.
It is the first “taste” of adulthood with adult-like responsibilities like balancing work-school, financial obligations, and social relationships. It is likely that these changes can trigger a variety of mental health issues.
Given that those who are diagnosed with a mental health disorder will experience their first onset of symptoms prior to or by the age of 25, it would be in their best interest to seek help from a mental health professional when they begin to notice any symptoms that are impacting their ability to navigate their day to day lives.
Symptoms to be aware of can include: abnormal sleep patterns i.e. trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, wanting to sleep more than usual, persistent sadness, lack of appetite, fatigue, being highly critical of yourself, irritability, lack of motivation, isolating behavior, loss of interest in activities, anxiety, lack of focus, participating in risky behaviors, thoughts about hurting yourself or others.
The more symptoms that are being experienced, the more frequent and intense they are, the more likely they will need for a professional to intervene. These can be a sign of varying issues including, anxiety, depression and other mood disorders. However, it is best to be evaluated by a mental health professional to ensure a proper diagnosis. The sooner you get in to speak to someone, the better.
Additionally, college students can be experiencing relational problems with family members, intimate partners, professors, or peers/roommates that can result in significant distress. A therapist specialized in addressing interpersonal dynamics and relational problems can help address these issues with more clarity.
Other commonly reported problems that students face during this time include substance abuse/addiction, eating disorders, self-harm behaviors, sexual abuse, co-dependent relationships, low self-esteem, or trauma.
Where to start looking for a therapist?
Most universities have an on-campus counseling centers that are free of charge to students. This is a service that is provided to students as part of their tuition and probably the best place to start. Another option is to contact their health insurance (if they have one) to find a licensed therapist in their area that takes their insurance. When contacting the insurance company make sure to ask what your copay is and how many sessions are included. Going through insurance will mitigate some of the financial load however it is important to note that if you are going through your insurance, the mental health professional will have to provide a diagnosis to ensure payment.
For those that do not have insurance, or do not want to be given a diagnosis that will be recorded by their insurance, you have the option of going to a licensed mental health professional that accepts private pay. The hourly rates will vary depending on your location and therapist experience. Do not be afraid to ask if they provide a sliding scale if you are concerned about payments as many therapist might slide their fee or provide package payments. This might be a feasible option for students whose parents are willing to provide financial support.
To find a therapist in your area, they can use popular, online directories for mental health professionals like PsychologyToday.com that you can search through by filtering location, specialization, and even language preference.
Most therapists, like myself, will provide a quick consultation over the phone to gather the basic information needed to assess whether they can be a good fit for the symptoms and issues you have explained. This is a good time to ask questions about hourly fees, and date/time availability. Many therapist provide flexible hours in the morning or evening as well as weekends to help work around your schedule.
A new advancement in therapy thanks to technology is the access to telehealth, which allows clients to meet with a therapist via a HIPAA compliant video platform. This is NOT the same as Facetime or Skype applications that do not provide a safe and confidential usage. CMC Therapists provide online therapy for Florida residents, which you can schedule a session here.
If you'd like to learn about how online therapy can help you, send me an email at Catalina@bekindtothemind.net.
Catalina Fortich, MS, LMFT
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
CMC Therapy, Davie, FL