According to information released by the South African Depression and Anxiety Group, student depression and suicide rates are at an all-time high. The group’s statistics show that since 1950, the suicide rate for white males (15-24) has tripled and has more than doubled for white females (15-24). Over the course of the last 15 years, the suicide rate for black males (15-24) has also risen by 2/3, with the rates for black females remaining consistent.
Furthermore, studies suggest that as many as 20% of college students have suicidal thoughts at some point in their college career.
Knowing that depression and suicide rates are rife is one thing, actually seeing these issues affect your college-going student is quite another. For many students, if they do not experience feelings of anxiety and depression themselves, they are highly likely to be in close contact with others who do.
So, what happens when your young adult’s friend or university roommate is struggling with mental health problems and your child wants to lend a hand. How can you, as their parent, support them in doing so? Here is some advice.
Investigate how bad the issue really is
First of all, acknowledge how honoured you feel that your teen has chosen to confide in your regarding the situation. Talking about problems such as these is never easy – even if they are not directly your own!
From there, it is important to establish just how severe the friend or roommate’s issues really are. Does your child think that they are suicidal? Are they in imminent danger? If so, immediate action will be necessary. You should get in touch with the university or with the roommate’s friends and family in instances such as this.
If your child insists that suicide isn’t a concern and that their friend or roommate is just in need of some help, you can begin to offer some insight into what they can do next. Find out what they have already tried and which avenues they have explored. Obviously, it is a good idea to recommend that their roommate speaks with a professional who is trained to assist them. Bring your child’s attention to the fact that them constantly acting as a shoulder to cry on can be incredibly draining and could start to affect their studies, as well as their own outlook on life.
Encourage them to seek professional help on behalf of their friend
Ultimately, while you should only decide to step in if your teen is being adversely affected by the situation, or the friend or roommate is a suicide risk, it is important that you check in to make sure that your child is following your advice.
The only way in which the roommate is going to overcome his or her challenges is to take action and seek the right help. Offer to assist your child in finding an appropriate counsellor or psychologist, or to speak to the roommate on their behalf. If they are unwilling to accept this support, suggest that they go to a member of authority from the university for guidance. Many universities will have helpful support groups and free counselling available for students who are struggling with mental health difficulties.
Remember that this is a challenge that your child will have to tackle themselves. Be there to support and advise, but let them find their own way and do what they think is appropriate to help their friend. Both youngsters are sure to learn a few important life lessons throughout this journey.