Lighthouse Network’s Dr. Karl Benzio Says Parents Can Help Students Dealing with Stress, Relationships, Life Change and Drugs
College students across the country are returning home after a year of studies, new friends and new responsibilities. But they may come home saddled with more than simply an armload of laundry.
Dr. Karl Benzio, founder, executive director and a psychiatrist at the Lighthouse Network, an addiction and mental health counseling helpline, says that some parents may be surprised by the young adult walking through their doors this spring. College students who have been away from home and living on their own may have been living a completely different life for the past several months. And poor influences, turbulent relationships, stress and substance abuse may all play a part.
“Parents are joyful to welcome their children home from college, but that joy may fade when they realize the young adults they love are struggling with depression, anxiety or substance abuse,” Benzio said. “Being away at college brings many new challenges, some positive and some negative. When spread thin by demands and stressors, young people may exchange thoughtful decision-making for impulsive or knee-jerk decision-making. Things like skipping sleep or a meal to pull an all-nighter for the 8 a.m. test may seem harmless, but these impulsive or short-sighted decisions will pile up, and for many, anxiety, depression, isolation, and self-doubt will follow. To cope, many will turn to caffeine, sex, alcohol, marijuana, a roommate’s Ritalin, or even harder drugs.”
Last year, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration released a report, “Results from the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of National Findings,” which presented alarming facts aboutdrug and alcohol use in America, especially among 18- to 25-year-olds.
For example, in 2012, more than one-fifth of college-aged students (18 to 25) used illicit drugs such as marijuana/hashish, cocaine and crack, heroin, hallucinogens or inhalants. Another 5 percent abused prescription drugs, including pain relievers, tranquilizers, stimulants and sedatives.
Perhaps most frightening is the fact that nearly 40 percent of young adults aged 18 to 25 engaged in binge drinking, or consuming more than five drinks in one sitting at least one day in the past month. The survey also found that than an estimated 9.3 million were underage (aged 12-20) drinkers in 2012, which included 5.9 million binge drinkers and 1.7 million heavy drinkers.
“It’s important for parents to be aware and ask questions,” Benzio added. “Although the behaviors are concerning, parents shouldn’t be quick to judge the behaviors. Instead, show your college-aged children you love them, are interested in the pressures they are dealing with, and want to help them deal with those pressures through healthy and God honoring decisions so their college experience can be one of growth, fulfillment, enjoyment and an awesome stepping stone in their life’s journey.”
Parents can help their college-aged children by suggesting faith-based counseling or treatment. Lighthouse Networkworks to guide struggling people through storms to achieve peace and find answers for those who have a hard time defining their problems. Lighthouse Network also offers the free, 24-hour Lighthouse Life Change Helpline toll-free at 1-844-LIFE-CHANGE (1-844-543-3242).
“The freedom to make choices is great for us,” Benzio said, “but this freedom brings grave responsibility. We have all made poor choices at times and suffered the consequences. The good news is, no matter what choices we have made in the past, there is always opportunity for a better future. God knew that we would make many bad choices. But He loves us so much that He sent Jesus. And Jesus made a free-will choice to pay the price for our sin to provide a way to restore our relationship with God, even when we periodically choose to walk away.”
For the past 65 years, Mental Health America and its affiliates across the country have led the observance of May as Mental Health Month. The theme for 2014 is “Mind Your Health” in an effort to tie mental health with physical health and educate the public about ways the mind and body interact.
According to the National Institutes for Health, an estimated 26.2 percent of Americans ages 18 and older suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year; approximately 6 percent, or 1 in 17, suffer from a serious mental illness. Mental disorders are the leading cause of disability in the U.S. and Canada, and many suffer from more than one mental disorder.