College Students and Caregiving

This blog is the first of a three-part series on college caregiving. This series was written by students from Pittsburg State University. Each student wrote about their experience with caregiving and how it has impacted them.

Introduction by Kayla Masisak

Welcome to the first blog of our series. We are students who all attend college at Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, Kansas. We are working with Caregiving Network as interns with an assignment to create this series.

We cover a range of topics and are proud to share our thoughts with you.

Some college students were already caregivers when they were in high school, and others become caregivers while in college.

Mental health is the primary issue we face. Some college students might not even realize that they are, in fact, acting as caregivers to their friends who are struggling. 

During the challenging months when quarantining due to COVID, we were confused. College students and other young adults are dealing with the transition out of quarantine, and the return to a questionable everyday life is unknown and stressful. No one my age has ever experienced a change like this. 

We want to inform others of our perspectives as well as help college students who are struggling.

Blog by Brilee Holle

We come to college thinking, “These will be the best years of our lives!” but they are also the hardest. We deal with relationships, friendships, family grades, deadlines, jobs, internships, tests, sports, scholarships, money, and so much more.

I have seen many of my friends struggle with mental health in some way. I struggled too. How we deal with mental health and care for our friends during these times is most important.

If you notice that one of your friends is acting differently than usual, talk to them. Ask them if they are okay. Three little words, “Are you okay?” goes a long way. Most of the time, people just need someone to talk to or know someone cares.

My first caregiving experience was when I was in 7th grade. I knew for a while that my friend was not well, but I was so young at the time that I had no idea how to handle it. She talked about how awful her home life was, would occasionally have drastic mood changes, had days where she just wanted to be alone, and days where she wouldn’t eat much. After a while, I noticed marks on her arms, but she swore to me that they were from her cat. I believed her. A few weeks later, the “scratches” got worse.

A couple of days later, I received a Facebook message from her boyfriend saying that he thought she would commit suicide. I brushed it off and thought she just wanted attention from her boyfriend because they had recently gotten into a huge fight.

I received another message a few minutes later from her boyfriend saying, “Can you please just go check on her? I am really worried.” I called her a few times. No answer. That’s when I started to worry. I put my shoes on and ran to her house. She was the only one home, and the door was unlocked. I walked into her room to find her lying on the ground with pills everywhere. I called my mom, crying, to explain what had happened. My mom immediately called 911, and dispatch was there within minutes. She lived, but it was a close call. This was when I learned to take everything seriously and never think someone just wants attention.

This semester, a close friend of mine was depressed. He showed all the signs listed below. Thoughts of suicide or depression to watch out for are:

– Locking themselves in their room for several hours

– Sleeping during the day and night

– Engaging in intercourse with several partners

– Skipping class

– Overuse of drugs and alcohol

– Failing courses

– Eating too much or too little

– Excessive partying

– Talking about their feelings only when intoxicated

You might read these and think, “That sounds like a normal college student. Of course, they are going to party, take naps during the day, eat, and maybe even fail a course or two.”

I would say YES; most college students do all of those, but when a student is doing all eight or an excessive amount of these, it becomes a sign of depression.

Listen to these signs. Watch for these signs. These signs are usually crying for help. Most importantly, do not brush anything off. You could be the one to save a life. Don’t ignore the signs.

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