Recently the JED Foundation published research on parent knowledge and attitudes in regards to their children’s mental health. We were interested in this article because it directly relates to our work with the SOVA studies.
They asked parents about their knowledge, attitudes, and perceptions about stigma of accessing mental health care; they also asked their opinion about the role of colleges in mental health care. This is an important research topic we know little about and which can inform parents how to help their children, especially those with mental health problems, transition to college. It can be difficult for parents to understand what is normative in college transition versus not. One example is many college students experience lack of sleep – how do you know if its just a fact of life in college? or a symptom of a mental illness? It’s important to know how to pick up on early signs of emotional distress that can sometimes come out during this transition.
Emotional disorders are very common in college: The health status of emerging young adults (age 18 to 26) is a major concern facing our nation. These “new adolescents”:
- face greater behavioral and non-behavioral health risks than either adolescents aged 12-17 or young adults aged 26-34. Overall, emerging young adults have the highest rates of motor vehicle injury and death, homicide, mental health problems, sexually transmitted infections and substance abuse
- compared to those two age groups, emerging young adults often have the lowest perception of risk and
- this age group has the least access to care and has the highest uninsured rate in the United States (from: usc.edu)
Although most parents feel that they are able to identify signs of depression in their college-age children, they actually have deficits in knowledge when asked to identify symptoms of depression without prompting. “Only 3.4% of parents identified suicidal thoughts as a sign of depression and only 15% of parents were able to name more than one or two signs” (JED foundation, 2008). Parents were least comfortable discussing mental health, especially suicidal thoughts and other health topics.
SOVA and wiseSOVA aim to increase knowledge, improve parent-adolescent communication around mental health, and connect families with available resources, including the JED foundation to promote healthy transitions!