Depression can happen to anyone at any time, but college students dealing with an onslaught of new life stressors are particularly at risk. Feeling overwhelmed from time to time is normal, but a student may be suffering from depression if they exhibit some or all of the symptoms below on a daily basis for two weeks or longer:
- Severe irritability and anger
- Sadness or frequent crying
- Worsening grades and lack of motivation
- Changes in eating patterns, along with weight gain or loss
- Lack of energy and fatigue, even after school and on weekends
- Withdrawal from social activities, clubs, and friends
- Poor sleeping habits
- New or worsening physical issues, such as digestive problems, headaches, or muscle pain
- Thoughts of suicide or self-harm (important: If a student has mentioned feeling suicidal or physically harming themselves, seek immediate help from a mental health professional). Get help now by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255.
Depression is a medical disorder—it’s not something that the person with depression can control.
“Science does not yet fully understand the chemical and nerve-cell connection abnormalities that underlie depression,” says Dr. Alan J. Gelenberg, professor emeritus of psychiatry at the University of Arizona. “Fortunately, people today who suffer from depression can find relief and often fully recover.”
Here’s what you can do to help students dealing with depression:
- Offer free and accessible counseling services for students.
- Create a clear set of staff protocols ensuring concerns about students reported to professors and advisors are flagged to university counseling staff.
- Establish a method for students to anonymously alert counseling staff if they’re worried about a peer, such as a tip line or app.
- Have a protocol in place for following up with students who have reported mental health issues over time.
- Provide resources for students on how to find private mental health professionals in your community.
- Offer programs and clubs, like yoga and meditation, designed to promote mental health.