College students are dealing with a lot of big life changes and transitions. Many times, they are experiencing new levels of stress and anxiety, and do not always know how to balance their academic schedules, workload, changes in social life, and extracurricular activities while trying to take care of themselves. Homesickness is very common as many college students have never lived on their own before. For many students this level of change and stress is a new experience and can trigger depressive symptoms. Depression is very prevalent on college campuses and oftentimes students do not know how to identify what they are going through.
These are signs of depression that students and their parents can be on the lookout for:
- Students feel sad, hopeless, hollow and have unexplained emotional outbursts
- Feelings of frustration over small issues
- Appetite and weight fluctuate: some experience weight loss, others weight gain
- Issues with sleep: some suffer from insomnia and others sleep too much
- Students experience high levels of anxiety and agitation
- Slower processing, movements and speaking
- Feelings of guilt and self-blame for things that are out of their control
- Issues with concentrating and making decisions.
- Normal activities and hobbies are no longer of interest to the student
- Physical aches and pains, many times unexplained
- Thoughts of death or life not worth living.
Since many college students are not living at home it can be hard for parents to identify if their college student is experiencing depression. The student might also have a hard time asking for help and occasionally fear the social repercussions. Depression can get worse if not treated and can lead to other physical and mental health issues. So as a parent, what can you do to help your college student if you believe they are struggling with depression? First and foremost, encourage them to talk with a doctor, counselor or therapist in the mental health center on campus or with a mental health professional off campus.
In addition to seeking professional treatment:
- Urge them to exercise, eat well, get enough sleep, spend time outdoors and try to limit alcohol and drug intake.
- Talk with your son or daughter about expanding their support network – reaching out to friends, family members, joining a new club or student group.
- Remind them to plan their work and sleep schedules out as much as possible and not try to do too many things at once.
- Urge your college student to jot down moments when they are feeling down in the dumps. Having a tangible record of depressive feelings might help them recognize they need to reach out for help.
- Suggest they try different relaxation methods such as mindfulness mediation, deep breathing exercises or something they enjoy that may reduce their stress.
- Encourage your college student to have fun! It can feel impossible to enjoy yourself when you are suffering from depression, so a reminder from loved ones to try and have fun could be helpful.
At CNLD, we offer psychotherapy and mental health service for college students both in-person and/or using a secure online platform. We also offer executive function coaching to assist with developing healthy habits, such as organization and time management, that can reduce frustration and begin to address possible causes of sad or depressed feelings. Please contact us for more information about our services.