How To Best Support Your University Student’s Mental Health and Wellness

Looks like we made it!

Now that we have survived the  transition back to school, you might be wondering: 

How to stay connected and best support the Mental Health and Wellness of your University/College student who might be away from home for the first time. The separation from home, finding their own path and developing into who they are going to be is a big developmental milestone for our young adults.

It can be hard to figure out how to parent effectively and navigate the important transition between teenage years and young adulthood when your parenting is limited and your young adults are off-discovering their own path. Knowing how to continue to support and parent can be hard.

Here are a few tips that I have learned through my experience as a mom (my youngest is now a first-year university student)  and from my work as a Clinical Mental Health Specialist at Atha Jiva and Emerge Counseling Services.

Tips to keep in mind when checking in with your student

1. Stay Curious

This is a big developmental milestone transition- stay curious about how your student is navigating this experience. It can be the hardest part of going away to College or University especially when they are away for the first time. It’s easy to feel dysregulated and hard to adjust and feel centred when you feel all over the place. 

Continue to inquire and ask specific questions about their daily routine, what friends have they made, what’s going well and what they feel they are struggling with and remind them that it takes time to settle in a new environment. Have your student remember the kinds of routines that worked for them at home, establishing their study routine and sleep routine, making time for physical and social activities, sports and joining clubs in areas of their interest.

For your freshman and first-year students, it might help them to focus on what they enjoyed most at home, and what they miss from home and try to recreate that lifestyle on campus. It is possible to be both nervous and brave at the same time – connecting with the activities they enjoy and people they want to spend time with will help them have a positive university experience.

2. Remember that healthy lifestyle habits are essential  for Campus Living 

Adjustment to campus lifestyle can be difficult, organizing study and social time, academic pressures, making healthy choices in relationships and daily lifestyle practices, managing being alone, the fear of not finding your path, and the career of your dreams are all part of the anxiety that comes with it campus life.

Knowing the importance of emotional well-being and also knowing how to recognize and manage the signs of stress and anxiety is incredibly important for a college student.”

As a mindful therapist, I like to remind my clients that: “Wellness is not outside you, it is what we nurture inside”. And while many things have changed for our college-age students the simple daily healthy habits that keep us at our best have not. This means creating emotional wellness as a daily routine in the same way we care for your physical well-being.

Realizing that the way we treat our bodies affects our emotional and mental health – staying active, eating and sleeping well are most important for staying well and doing well on campus.

Wellness is not outside you, it is what we nurture inside

3. Make use of all the on- Campus Resources

My eldest son is presently a third-year student at the University of Toronto, as a Resident Assistant in his second year, he advised students to be aware of the services that are offered on campus that support their health and emotional well-being.  During orientation, students should be aware of where the wellness centre is on campus and know who and where to go to check in on their physical and mental health.

He informed the new students in his dorm that when they notice a roommate not doing well for example when they see that a roommate is missing classes, staying in their dorm room, isolating, or not making friends, they should not feel that they have to shoulder the burden. Instead, they should reach out to their RA and or connect them with the professional services on campus that they need.

In traversing this important milestone, and supporting your student in building healthy campus life routines it’s important to keep in mind that every student is different and it takes time to transition to this next stage. 

Encourage your young adult to know that they will figure it out, that they are not alone, that they have resources available to them and that you are always there for support.

As a Mindful Therapist, I help my clients manage their own emotions and develop effective coping skills so they feel empowered as they go through the tough transitions and challenges of life.

Janet Haughton Quarshie

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