Post-secondary distress

Got a kid at university? How to tell if your "grown-up" child is calling for help

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Published in More Magazine in November 2011

When 20-year-old Kevin Dixon* failed his second year at an Ontario university in the spring of 2008, he didn't tell anyone - not his mother, not his friends, not his roommates.

Instead, the engineering student returned in September and pretended he was still enrolled - he went to classes and took notes, talked about exams he said he'd written and mentioned marks he hadn't received.

But after a few months of living this lie, he no longer was able to maintain the deception and simply walked away from campus. He left his cellphone and laptop in his room, made a $400 withdrawal and, after hopping a bus and crossing the U.S. border, didn't make another move that would leave a record of his whereabouts.

He headed to the southern U.S. and disappeared for six months, living alone in a hidden campsite, surviving on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, buying food with money he made as a day labourer.

In the meantime, his mother, frantic with worry, devoted herself to finding her missing son. She was constantly in touch with the police as they followed up on leads. A Facebook group was set up and a story about Dixon was posted on the website of America's Most Wanted.

Eventually Dixon called home, confessed everything to his mother and moved back to his hometown. "I decided it was easier to leave than it was to deal with things and confront it," he told a local reporter.

Contacted by More, Dixon says he doesn't want to talk any further about what happened, but does reveal he's "doing fine now."

His mother didn't return our calls. And who can blame her? She lived every parent's nightmare - not knowing if her child was alive or dead - all because he flunked out of university and couldn't face telling her the truth.

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