When enrolling in college becomes more important than a young person’s health.

WARNING: This is a roast.

For a parent who has supported their high-achieving high school student, at what point do you step in and suggest they defer their admission to seek mental health services?  At what point do you acknowledge that you are enmeshed, co-dependent and can’t be objective when it comes to your young adult and their well-being?  You feel awful about the predicament you’re in, when we need to be thinking about the well-being of our soon-to-be college student.  That to me, is an indicator of what I’m working with.

College isn’t going anywhere.  If anything, the only thing your student will miss is their originally matched college roommate.  Good for them that they linked up and are already fast friends!  Your young adult will not last past one semester if you don’t prioritize their health.  The college will commend you for suggesting they take a break, even before they got started.  Why?  Because even colleges realize they don’t have the capacity to provide the support that your young adult needs.  If you take a moment to take care of yourself and your young adult before they go off to college, they’ll likely be more successful in the long run.  Any college that cares about retention and matriculation (which is all of them) will appreciate that!

You may say I’m catastrophizing your young adult’s situation.  If you ask, I’m happy to share plenty of statistics with you about how someone who admitted to substance abuse, experienced a recent sexual assault, and has pre-existing mental health will significantly struggle in a collegiate setting [without support].  This. Is. A. Fact.  This doesn’t have to do with whether they’re academically capable.  We all know they are; they were admitted for goodness sake.  They’ve proven that by taking the ACT five times, they can earn a higher score and thus make themselves more desirable to elite institutions. The fact is, it has everything to do with the notion that our emotions trump our logical brain.  If you aren’t okay with your health, you will not be able to achieve (nor focus) academically. And even in the slightest chance that your young adult muddles through their first semester, your young adult is far from thriving.

As a parent, you may be wanting me to congratulate you on the fact that your young adult was admitted into an institution that only accepts 4% of their incoming class.  If that’s what you are wanting from me, you will be waiting for a while.  Or you say to me that although you have found out that your child has been “only blacking out twice a month,” at least they’re telling you about it.  This is after you’ve disclosed to me that you have two close family members who went to treatment for addiction.  But, let’s not link your daughter to this.  She’s the one going off soon to earn that Ivy degree that you didn’t subliminally pressure her into needing.  This is the same child who dictates to you what type of treatment they want. Nothing, except meeting with their Psychiatrist who only has enough time to prescribe additional medication and see them on their way.  Maybe in a few months they’ll meet again to increase the dosage.

This is where I want to be frank, not that I haven’t already been in writing this.  I took the time to draft up a proposal to you, as the parent, on clinically what was recommended for your child.  The recommend said that said “hold the phone. We need to get supports first, and then send them off to school.” But I know what you did with that proposal.  You shared it with your child, because they’re your best friend and you want to make sure they’re included in this decision.  The same child who has pre-existing mental health issues, admitted to significant substance abuse (and advocating for treatment), and experienced a recent sexual assault.  Because they are the rational brain.  They definitely know what they need right now, and what they’re telling is you “get me to college so I can pretend this summer never happened.” 

As a professional, this tells me as a parent you have zero clue how trauma impacts the body.  And you are so enmeshed with your child that you cannot make a decision for the betterment of the family system.  That’s how I got looped in.  Sadly, you’re turning me away because you don’t understand the depth of your despair.  All I can do is wait on the sidelines, because sadly, it will get far worse before it gets better.  You want me to make predictions on what will happen?  I’d prefer you not ask.  I’ve had clients like that, and it truly breaks my heart.  More so because I want to believe the parents are willing to hire a professional to make executive decisions for the family.  Not because you want me to be excited for you when your child comes home from college worse off than they were before they left, and they really weren’t in a good spot to begin with.

Think about this for a minute.