Parents Unaware of Students’ Mental Health Struggles

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A new survey of college students and the parents of college students found big disparities in their perceptions of student mental health struggles.

The study, conducted by YouGov on behalf of UnitedHealthcare, showed that while 41 percent of students said they’d experienced depression, only 22 percent of parents thought their children had ever been depressed.

Similarly, 11 percent of students reported having dealt with an eating disorder, while only 5 percent of parents said they believed their children had. And students reported suicidal ideation at more than three times the rate (13 percent) their parents imagined (4 percent).

Parents were much more likely to believe their children hadn’t accessed mental health care simply because they didn’t need any. In fact, 60 percent of students who hadn’t accessed care reported that they actually did need that support; the main reasons they didn’t seek counseling were cost barriers, the challenge of getting appointments and difficulty finding resources.

“It may not be surprising that some students and parents have different perceptions of the college experience, but this report demonstrates the need to create environments for ongoing meaningful conversations with these emerging adults,” said Donald Tavakoli, national medical director for behavioral health at UnitedHealthcare, in a press release. “We need to work with students to educate them on their options for mental and behavioral support. Colleges, parents, health care providers and health plans all can play a role in supporting navigation to appropriate care.”

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