Dealing with Depression in College

Student laying on bed in dorm roomThe transition from high school to college is a significant one, and it can trigger challenges for some students, including depression. The stress students face in a new environment combined with a lack of structure and support can have adverse effects. Trying to embrace the “college lifestyle”—staying up all hours of the night, not eating nutritiously, and taking on an academic schedule that may be erratic—can make a student feel disjointed. Although heading off to college is exciting, as it lends itself to independence and freedom, it can also be a challenging adjustment. As the number of students who suffer from depression in college rises, it’s important to be aware of the resources and support available on campus.

As a parent:

  • Encourage your child to share his or her feelings with you and listen well
  • Encourage your child not to take on too many tasks at once, and to break large responsibilities into smaller ones
  • Encourage your child to be familiar with the campus counseling resources
  • Reassure your child that struggling in college is not unusual and that many students experience it

As a student:

  • Seek out professionals at the campus health center
  • Establish an open line of communication with those who can help—maybe a roommate, professor, or anyone you feel comfortable confiding in
  • Be aware of your limits—don’t try to overextend your schedule
  • Connect with support groups and programs offered on campus. You’re not alone!
  • Take care of yourself physically. Exercise, eat well, and get enough sleep
  • Have some fun. Go out with friends—it’s amazing what a little laughter can do
  • Avoid alcohol and other drugs. It’s easy to get caught up in abusing substances and alcohol is a depressant, so stay away
  • Check out The Recovery Village, which provides information on both local and national depression hotlines

It is difficult for a parent to find the balance between letting go of a child when he or she goes to school and keeping a pulse on how a child is doing. Most of the requisite emotional day-to-day management is incumbent upon the individual student to negotiate. Yet, we want to make sure the lines of communication are kept open and affirming to help keep the child healthy and happy.