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New Guidebook Helps Teens Navigate the Highs and Lows of the College Years

By Taylor Smith

In The Stressed Years of Their Lives: Helping Your Kid Survive and Thrive During Their College Years, authors B. Janet Hibbs (psychologist and marriage therapist) and Anthony Rostain (psychiatry and pediatrics/Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania) write that today’s students “experience the very real burdens of constant striving on behalf of uncertain futures, amidst swiftly changing political and economic landscapes. They’re also stressed by the 24/7 availability of the internet, by social media pressures, and the resulting metrics of constant comparisons, whether social or academic.” College kids are trying to find their feet when they leave the ‘nest’ so they go through multiple stages that can have an effect on who they are. Some are happy to go out and party as much as possible, potentially using websites like to get what they need to do this, whilst others are so focused on their academic studies they forget morning and night. Each one can come with ups and downs in a college kids life.

Colleges and universities around the country can attest to the increase in mental health problems among their student populations. The notion of “surviving college and doing well,” might seem simple enough for past generations of parents, but Rostain says, “What we’re seeing now are growing numbers of students coming onto campuses who are already being treated for mental illness, or who are on various medications and who really have learned to manage their illnesses at home.”

The problem of maintaining (or improving upon) students’ pre-existing mental health care treatment while attending college is not something that most universities are equipped to handle. As Hibbs explained to NPR, her own son took a medical leave of absence during his first college spring break to deal with anxiety and depression. As a mother and mental health practitioner, Hibbs wanted her son to get the medical treatment he required, but she also “wanted his life to stay on track.”

“One of the reasons we wrote this book is not to scare parents, but to help them know what they can do to help,” Hibbs told NPR’s Terry Gross. “Having the emotional expression of the family convey warmth, support, unconditional support, not judgement, that…is one of the best medicines.”

The authors of The Stressed Years use case studies and their own research to highlight the rise in anxiety, depression, and suicide on college campuses. Useful checklists are also provided that include limiting smartphone use, pathways to on-campus and off-campus counseling, methods for coping with anxiety that don’t involve alcohol or drugs, and national support services. With an equal balance of statistics, clinical practice, and their own life experiences, Hibbs and Rostain offer that improved knowledge about the treatment, care, and recognition of the rise of mental health issues among our nation’s youth can be better addressed during the significant college years.

Purchase The Stressed Years of their Lives on Amazon:

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