Depression and College Students
Many people experience the first symptoms of depression during their college years. Unfortunately, many college students who have depression aren't getting the help they need. They may not know where to go for help, or they may believe that treatment won't help. Others don't get help because they think their symptoms are just part of the typical stress of college, or they worry about being judged if they seek mental health care.
What is depression?
Depression is a common but serious mental illness typically marked by sad or anxious feelings. Most college students occasionally feel sad or anxious, but these emotions usually pass quickly and diminish within a couple of days. Untreated depression lasts for a long time, interferes with day-to-day activities, and is much more than just being "a little down" or "feeling blue."
Depression can affect your academic performance in college. Studies suggest that college students who have depression are more likely to smoke. Research suggests that students with depression do not necessarily drink alcohol more heavily than other college students. But students with depression, especially women, are more likely to drink to get drunk and experience problems related to alcohol abuse, such as engaging in unsafe sex. Depression and other mental disorders often co-occur with substance abuse, which can complicate treatment.
What are the signs and symptoms of depression?
The symptoms of depression vary. If you are depressed, you may feel:
You may also experience one or more of the following:
- Loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy
- Lack of energy
- Problems concentrating, remembering information, or making decisions
- Problems falling asleep, staying asleep, or sleeping too much
- Loss of appetite or eating too much
- Thoughts of suicide or suicide attempts
- Aches, pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not go away.
What causes depression?
Depression does not have a single cause. Several factors can lead to depression. Some people carry genes that increase their risk of depression. But not all people with depression have these genes, and not all people with these genes have depression. Environment — your surroundings and life experiences, such as stress, also affects your risk for depression. Stresses of college may include:
- Living away from family for the first time
- Missing family or friends
- Feeling alone or isolated
- Experiencing conflict in relationships
- Facing new and sometimes difficult school work
- Worrying about finances
How can I help myself if I am depressed?
If you have depression, you may feel exhausted, helpless, and hopeless. But it is important to realize that these feelings are part of the illness. Treatment can help you feel better.
To help yourself feel better:
- Try to see a professional as soon as possible—research shows that getting treatment sooner rather than later can relieve symptoms quicker and reduce the length of time treatment is needed
- Give treatment a fair chance—attend sessions and follow your doctor's or therapist's advice, including advice about specific exercises or "homework" to try between appointments
- Break up large tasks into small ones, and do what you can as you can; try not to do too many things at once
- Spend time with other people and talk to a friend or relative about your feelings
- Do not make important decisions until you feel better; talk about decisions with others whom you trust and who know you well
- Engage in mild physical activity or exercise
- Participate in activities that you used to enjoy
- Expect your mood to improve gradually with treatment
- Remember that positive thinking will replace negative thoughts as your depression responds to treatment.
How can I help a friend who is depressed?
If you suspect a friend may have depression, you can help him or her get diagnosed and treated. You may need to help your friend find a doctor, mental health care provider, or mental health services on your college campus. If your friend seems unable or unwilling to seek help, offer to go with him or her, and tell your friend that his or her health and safety are important to you.
You can also:
- Offer support, understanding, patience, and encouragement
- Talk to your friend and listen carefully
- Never ignore comments about suicide, and report them to your friend’s therapist or doctor
- Invite your friend out for walks, outings, and other activities. If they refuse keep trying, but don't push
- Ensure that your friend gets to doctor's appointments and encourage him or her to report any concerns about medications to their health care professional
- Remind your friend that with time and professional treatment, the depression will lift.
*National Institute of Mental Health, NIMH
Personal Counseling Center
Campus location: Marguerite Hall, 1st FL
Office Hours: Mon-Fri, 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM
Evening Hours by Appointment
Phone: (716) 829-7819
Kim Zittel, LMHC, NCC
Director, Personal Counseling Center
Licensed Mental Health Counselor
National Certified Counselor
Erin M. Moss, MA, LMHC
Licensed Mental Health Counselor
Isabel Molina, APRN BC
Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner
Our campus ministers are available for spiritual counseling and support
The D'Youville College Health Center provides information, health counseling, and emergency treatment.
If you know a student who seems to be in trouble or may potentially harm themselves, report it to the Students of Concern Committee.
D'Youville's Disability Services Office can find you the resources you need for academic success.