Mental health prep for the college-bound, and how parents can help

This is the time of year many students are getting ready for the transition to college – visiting and applying to schools and retaking SATs and ACTs. But in many ways, that's the easy stuff.

In their new book, "The Stressed Years of Their Lives: Helping Your Kid Survive and Thrive During Their College Years," authors Anthony Rostain, a Penn psychiatry professor, and B. Janet Hibbs, a Philadelphia family therapist, offer advice to parents in an era when young adult anxiety and depression rates, not to mention youth suicide, are troublingly high.

Many college-bound students are managing a mental health diagnosis and often medication. According to the authors, ages 14 to 26 are when most mental illness most often strikes. What was undetectable or mild in high school may become apparent in college. In addition, federal laws limit what information colleges can share with parents; the authors suggest parents look into obtaining waivers, especially if their child already has issues. According to the most recent annual survey of the American College Health Association, one in four college students were diagnosed with or treated for anxiety in the last year, Rostain and Hibbs note.

"More treatment and more awareness does not create more mental illness," said Hibbs. "The increases are real."

Meanwhile, some experts say many parents have erred on the side of protecting their youngsters in the post-9/11 and post-Columbine world, rather than fostering independence. Now, ready or not, their student is heading off on their own.

Here are suggestions from Rostain and Hibbs for parents of the college-bound to consider now: