So Now What? Mental Health and Making the Transition from High School to College

Jazmin Kay

Jazmin Kay
Mental Health Advocate, JED Foundation
Student, George Washington University

Like many students, I have dreamed about this week for years.

Packing up my car to the brim, wrapping up my childhood experiences into a scrappy cardboard box. Feeling a mixture of ecstasy and sadness as I smoosh the imprint of my face into the backseat window, I say goodbye to my hometown, and proceed to the next chapter of my life. But leaving for freshman year of college—contrary to what my movie-convinced middle school self believed—is not that “picture perfect.”

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You’ve Settled in at College, Now How Do You Balance Your Emotional Health?

The Jed Foundation

Congratulations, you’ve moved into college!
Living on your own comes with a new set of responsibilities, challenges, and opportunities. College is about learning and growing, broadening your horizons, and making new friends. College can be a transformative experience. Even if you’ve had struggles in the past, you can take care of yourself and do well in college.
THE JED FOUNDATION LOGO. (PRNewsFoto/The Jed Foundation)

As the new academic year begins, how can you be sure that you are ready for the emotional challenges and opportunities of college life? Here are some tips from the JED Foundation to help you take full advantage of what’s available to you for a successful time on campus.

Know how to make the most of your education
Managing a college workload is likely to be stressful, but there are ways to lighten the emotional load while still being a good student. Make the most of the knowledgeable people around you. Use academic advisors and get to know your professors. Attend office hours, even if it’s just to introduce yourself. A good connection with a professor could turn a boring course into a favorite. Find out what is expected of you academically and use support services (e.g., academic advisors or tutors, writing and IT support, multicultural services) on campus. This will help to minimize stress and maximize focus and efficiency.

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Taking Suicide Prevention Upstream

Photo is courtesy of Woodley Wonder Works’ Flickr Photostream, under Creative Commons licensing.

Across the country, school districts are providing mental health awareness and suicide prevention training for teachers and school personnel. Some are mandated or encouraged to do so by state law, others are motivated by recent incidents, and some introduce this kind of education because suicide is now the second-leading cause of death among youth aged 15-24.

Teacher and parent training are key components in any plan to address teen suicide. Increasingly, however, communities are recognizing that kids need to learn about mental health, too. Social and emotional learning across the lifespan reduces risk factors and promotes protection factors for violence, substance abuse, negative health outcomes, and suicide. One way to provide universal student training is by including a mental health component in the standard wellness or health curriculum. School districts and individual schools can implement individual, more targeted programs as well.

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iFred Provides “Schools for Hope” for Kids’ Emotional Health

Kathryn Goetzke

Kathryn Goetzke, Founder International Foundation For Research and Education on Depression

A new school year brings a flurry of activity with the return to early morning alarm clocks, class schedules, new teachers, and a renewed connection with peers after summer break. Homework returns and many extracurricular activities are back in full swing. It can be an exciting time to see friends and share summer stories. But for some children, the school year may elicit feelings of uncertainty, anxiety and sadness. Left unrecognized, these feelings can lead to a decline in a child’s emotional wellness, relationships with family and friends, and academic performance. In some circumstances, the consequences can be devastating.

That is why children need to learn from an early age how to care for their emotional health, just as they learn academic skills, as each will help prepare them for success and happiness in life. The importance of always having hope is a vital component to mental health across age groups. Hope has been found to correspond with greater emotional and psychological well-being, enhanced personal relationships, and greater academic performance with published research suggesting hope is a skill that can be taught.

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Patient-Centered Outcomes Pave the Road to Wellness


A suicide attempt during her junior year in college brought Jennifer back home to live with her parents where she chose to participate in a mood disorder partial hospitalization program (PHP). Her treatment plan included group therapy and peer support services at the PHP and appointments with a psychiatrist. Through this coordinated mental health care, she and her support team accepted a bipolar II disorder diagnosis. Jennifer identified to her care team that her end-goal was to return to the university she had left and graduate.

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Learning to Live with Bipolar Disorder


Caroline HeeJeon Gale

I am person with bipolar disorder and a suicide attempt survivor. Bipolar disorder has affected my family and me in many hard ways, but it has also encouraged my family to express how much we mean to each other, and how much I mean to them. I would not have made it through without their love and support, and I probably would not be here to tell my story if I hadn’t had the kind of individualized care I received from my county mental health system.

My family emigrated from Korea to the United States when I was 10 years old. As symptoms of my mood disorder surfaced within the next couple of years, my parents, whose primary language is Korean, had difficulty accessing resources in our community. They were supportive, but because of language barriers and unfamiliarity with the mental health care system, they had limited ability to act on their concerns and to help me. Without the aid of translators, my parents would be excluded from participating in my mental health care and treatment.

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Through the Eyes of the Patient

mood network

Roberta Tovey
Director of Communications, MoodNetwork

The concept of patient-centered care is not, on the face of it, a very complicated one. Nor is it new: developed in the 1980s, and based on the famous psychiatrist Carl Rogers’ humanistic approach to psychotherapy in the 1950s and ’60s, it has been widely promulgated in modern healthcare theory and has been the credo of family practice medicine for decades. Nevertheless, patient-centered care has turned out to be harder to implement than to describe, and is still not incorporated into most medical practices. This is especially true of the area of mental health.

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Suicide, Stigma, and the Role of Religious Faith

Matthew S. Stanford, PhD
Professor of Psychology, Neuroscience, and Biomedical Studies, Baylor University

We acknowledge the collaboration of American Association of Pastoral Counselors in developing this post.

Throughout history, suicide has frequently been misunderstood and religion has played a significant role in adding to its stigma. Sadly, due to misinformation that typically dates back to Biblical teachings, many Christians consider suicide to be an unforgivable sin. But demonizing suicide is outdated and ignores the real cause: mental illness.

It’s time for religious communities to play a pivotal role in addressing this nation’s mental health crisis and many are rising to the challenge. Congregation by congregation, attitudes are evolving.

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