I was compensated by Med-IQ through an educational grant from Otsuka America Pharmaceutical, Inc. and Lundbeck to write about depression in college-aged students. All opinions are my own.
A letter to my son in college:
You’ve been gone a few months now, and our life at home is settling in to a new routine. One where we don’t expect you to sleepily crawl down the stairs at noon on a Saturday. A routine where we don’t have to drive you to work and them home from work after bedtime. We’re doing our own dishes and your bathroom [still] isn’t getting cleaned. There are never teenagers lounging on one of our five sofas, loudly watching the latest flick or playing Mario Kart.
Instead, your bedroom door stays closed to the world around it and your presence is a ghost that haunts us from two hours away. My new routine starts when I wake each day and check your location in Messenger. I’m not being invasive, I just want to know you’ve made it back to your dorm safely. I move about my day learning to exist in a haze of your absence. I go to the gym and to work then run your brother and sister to their activities, often not getting home until after 8pm. Even though you’re never actually there, you’re always with me.
The best part of every day for me is receiving your text messages telling me how your night was or what you have to do that day to prepare for your classes. I can’t even begin to tell you how much it means to me that you’re still in touch, that you care enough to keep me in the loop of your life. I realize that as you age that communication may wane, so for now I am enjoying every second you let me know you’re thinking of me. Goodness knows I think of you all the time.
I spend part of each day worrying that you’re happy, well-fed, making friends, and wondering whether or not you’re stressed out about things beyond school, things you shouldn’t be stressed out about. Every time I see garnet and gold together or am reminded of your school, I well up with pride I feel in my chest swelling like a comforting heartburn.
Each night when I go to bed, I check your location one more time to see if I need to spend an hour praying for your safety or if I can rest easy knowing you’re safely within the confines of your residence hall.
You are my greatest treasure and my proudest accomplishment. Your health and happiness mean more to me than anything in the world. Thank you for trusting me with both your sadness and your happiness. Thank you for coming to me for advice. Thank you for showing me that your health is important by being so connected at school by scheduling regular visits to the health clinic. Learning to take care of yourself is one of the greatest gifts you could give me. Knowing that if you need to talk to someone or are sick and you know where to find help is exactly the salve my worry needs.
Thank you for growing up and showing me I did something right in my life. Those first 18 years were full of rollercoasters and so much doubt, but you’re proving to me that despite my missteps, you overcame and have thrived anyway.
The only thing I can ask of you now is to continue that work. Take care of yourself unabashedly, and call your mom whenever you have a question or need some advice. Never apologize for putting yourself first and if you’re ever feeling alone, know that you’re encircled in love and surrounded by help.
I love you,
Do you speak openly with your college aged children about their mental health? It is still a car conversation in our house, or one best had via text. But we do have them, my college-aged son knows he can come to me with any problems he has, and he does. He doesn’t always want to talk to me directly, but he texts me for support and reassurance during hard times. That is why partnering with Med-IQ on this campaign about depression in college students was so important to me.
Mental illness is as common as cancer, and yet we are so much more willing to accept someone who has cancer than someone who struggles with mental illness. Why Is that? If you’re in a public place reading this, look to the right and to the left. Someone you are near right now is battling mental illness right now, and they are no worse than you because of it.
The stigmatization of mental illness must stop. We have to get vocal about it, not only with our peers, but with our children. How important is it for them to know they won’t be judged, that they are not alone? It’s literally a life or death situation. And if your child doesn’t suffer, they surely know someone who does and they could be the hero in that person’s story some day.
Let’s talk about it! Start the conversation with the National Alliance on Mental Illness TODAY.
Med-IQ is conducting an anonymous survey and would appreciate your input. The survey, which includes additional education on this topic, will take less than 15 minutes to complete. Survey responses are shared only in aggregate. Your responses to these survey questions will provide Med-IQ with important information about your experiences with depression and mental health in your college-aged child, which will help us develop future educational initiatives.
Once you’ve completed the survey, you will have the option of providing your email address to be entered into a drawing administered by SOMA Strategies to win 1 of 10 $100 VISA gift cards. If you choose to enter, your email address will not be sold, kept, or stored; email addresses are used only to randomly draw the winners and notify them of their prize.
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