Earlier this year, The Jed Foundation and the American Psychiatric Foundation launched one of the newest mental health resources on the Web, The Transition Year. Recently, I was able to talk with Courtney Knowles, the Executive Director of The Jed Foundation, to get the skinny on this one-stop shop and why its contents are so beneficial for both students and parents before, during, and even after the college years.

There’s a never-ending line at the bookstore. Posters announcing football schedules and Greek rush events are posted every couple of feet. Meal cards are being swiped every few minutes and music is blasting down the hall from the room where two longtime roommates are, once again, haggling over who’s in charge of buying the toilet paper.

Yep, it’s that time of year again: Class is officially in session for most colleges and universities throughout the nation.

For many teens, this means leaving the nest for the first stage of adulthood or catching up with friends and sharing summer adventure stories. For many parents, it’s a time mixed with bittersweet pride and, yes, a bit of breath holding.

For everyone, though, it should be a time of putting into practice the plans necessary to keep the exciting and often hectic nature of college life balanced with good mental health and emotional wellness, and that’s exactly what Courtney Knowles, Executive Director of The Jed Foundation, hopes The Transition Year will help college students and their parents accomplish.

The Transition Year, the collaborative effort of The Jed Foundation and the American Psychiatric Association, is a website jam packed with information and resources drawn from “the results of an extensive literature review and a comprehensive survey of parents with college-age children,” as well as work with mtvU, the Associated Press, and the American College Health Association.

Yet, for all its helpful tools, The Transition Year is more than just a website; it’s also a crucial time period during which teens make the transition from adolescence to adulthood. “The time period can be more than a year,” Knowles acknowledges. “Students can start making plans and reviewing resources like those on the site as early as their sophomore and junior years of high school.”

Of course, as far as preparation for maintaining mental and emotional wellness during this time period is concerned, Knowles points out, “That’s something that should happen throughout life.”

And who better to help with that than parents?

From encouraging them to excel in both academics and extracurricular activities to helping them complete applications and make financial plans, many parents are quite involved in helping their children prepare for college; however, there could be a couple of areas “not showing up on the parents’ radar.” Student surveys have shown emotional issues are one of the top reasons they’re not succeeding, and Knowles feels parents “could be overlooking this as an important part of their child’s success at college.”

At the same time, the mental and emotional well being of their children might not be the only issues parents are overlooking; surveys designed to find out how informed parents are about the external issues students have to deal with – such as drug and alcohol abuse on campus – revealed many parents had only a rudimentary awareness:

“Parents felt extremely knowledgeable, but after we dug a little deeper we found they didn’t know as much as they initially thought.”

Too, there is a group of students who must make extra preparations as they plan for college.

According to Knowles, “13 percent of college students have been diagnosed with a mental health issue at some point in their lives. Those students have an increased risk of struggling.” Making connections early, such as becoming familiar with campus resources and building a support network, is crucial. “Planning for setbacks is important to not only survive, but to thrive at college.”

And that’s exactly what The Transition Year is designed to do.

Within The Transition Year, parents and students can access a wealth of information about:

  • Choosing the right school. The site even boasts a College Wiki that provides information about colleges and universities throughout the nation.
  • Links and resources regarding everything from general mental health information and advocacy and support groups to drug and alcohol resources and suicide prevention.
  • Free downloads, including those designed to help students determine their “emotional fit score” for a particular college and a contact sheet for keeping up with important contacts such as the student’s Resident Advisor, the local counseling center, the health insurance company, and the mental health provider.

All of this is, of course, in addition to the website’s forum. By registering (it’s free!), students can receive “a customized library, free tools, resources and forms to help manage your transition.”

Sound like a lot? Maybe it is. Yet, Knowles sums it up best: “It’s all about preparedness.”

To learn more about The Transition Year and the resources it provides both parents and students, visit www.thetransitionyear.org, and don’t forget to head over to www.thejedfoundation.org to check out additional tools for students, parents, and campus professionals.