The Depressed Student
Feelings of depression, and the variety of ways depression manifests itself, is part of a natural response to life’s ups and downs. With the busy and demanding life of a college student, it is safe to assume that most students will experience periods of reactive (or situational) depression in their college careers.
Major Depression (also known as Clinical Depression) however, more dramatically involves one’s mood, body, thoughts and behavior. It affects the way you eat and sleep, the way you feel about yourself, and the way you think about things. Major depression is not a passing blue mood. It is not a sign of personal weakness or a condition that can be wished or willed away. People with depression cannot merely “pull themselves together” and get better. It will interfere with a student’s ability to function in school or a social environment. Without treatment, symptoms can last for weeks, months or years. Appropriate treatment, however, can help over 75% of those who suffer from depression.
You can look for a pattern of these indicators, but understand that not everyone who is depressed experiences every symptom.
- Persistent sad, anxious or “empty” mood
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
- Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities that you once enjoyed, including sex and school
- Insomnia, early morning awakening or oversleeping
- Appetite loss and/or weight loss, or overeating and weight gain
- Decreased energy, fatigue, being “slowed down
- Thoughts of death or suicide, suicide attempts
- Restlessness, irritability
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
- Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond
- To casual treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders and chronic pain
- Inconsistent class attendance
- Decline in personal hygiene
It is helpful to:
- Let the student know you’re aware she/he is feeling down and you would like to help.
- Reach out more than halfway and encourage the student to discuss how she/he is feeling.
- Offer options to further investigate/manage the symptoms of depression.
- Encourage them to seek help, possibly suggesting the Counseling Center or Hall Mental Health Center.
- Do not ignore remarks about suicide.
It is less helpful to:
- Minimize the student’s feelings (e.g., “Everything will be better tomorrow.”).
- Bombard the student with “fix it” solutions or advice.
- Be afraid to ask whether the student is suicidal if you think she/he may be.