Support for College Students with Depression

Going to college can act as a catalyst for the onset of depression in many young people. According to Executive Director Courtney Knowles of The JED Foundation, the average age of onset for many mental health conditions is the typical college age range of 18 to 24 years old. “Students deal with a unique amount of stressors,” Knowles said.  Leaving the support system of friends and family, an unstructured schedule, increased academic pressures, substance use, non-nutritious eating and erratic sleeping habits all increase the risk of depression occurring in college students. 

You are certainly not the only one who is experiencing depression.  About one-third of U.S. college students had difficulty functioning in the last 12 months due to depression, and almost half said they felt overwhelming anxiety in the last year, according to the 2013 National College Health Assessment, which examined data from 125,000 students from more than 150 colleges and universities. 

There are many tools and techniques to use against depression. One might attempt to tweak their diet, sleep, physical activities, and most importantly interpersonal relationships. However, taking action by connecting with the right professional services is one of the most critical tasks. 

If You Are in Crisis: Call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text START to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The service is available to anyone. All communications are confidential.

Signs and Symptoms of Depression

Depression isn’t easy to spot.  Students may be withdrawn or apathetic, others may be aggressive or self-destructive, and others may appear to be “fine”.  Here are some warning signs that a person may be depressed:

  • Persistently sad, anxious, irritable or empty mood
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Fatigue and decreased energy
  • Significant change in appetite and/or weight
  • Overreaction to criticisms
  • Feeling unable to meet expectations
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
  • Feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness or guilt
  • Persistent physical symptoms such as headaches, digestive problems or chronic pain that do not respond to routine treatment
  • Substance abuse problems
  • Thoughts of suicide or suicide attempts

Getting help on campus

If you’re experiencing many of these signs and symptoms and it’s impairing your ability to function as a college student, we suggest you:

  • Talk to friends and family about it.
  • Go to the college counseling office, see a psychiatrist, seek out support groups on campus (i.e., Active Minds).
  • Try integrating these non-clinical holistic skills that can help:
    • Exercise
    • Yoga
    • Meditation
    • Mindfulness
    • Better Nutrition

If you’ve tried these and are still feeling very overwhelmed then maybe a medical leave of absence is the right move for you. 

A medical leave of absence from school can be a scary concept where you’re worried about falling behind and leaving your classmates, but the pause may be the most important step you take.   

Let us help 

College Re-Entry is a semester long non-clinical program that can provide the structure and community that you need during your medical leave of absence to return to college with confidence. 

CRE has mindfulness, fitness, nutrition specialists to develop a wellness plan to help you gain more control over your symptoms.  You’ll also have access to one-on-one coaching from our social workers, be paired with a mentor who experienced mental health challenges in college and improve your academic skills and stress relief techniques through our seminars.  Most importantly you’ll have a positive environment you can come to every day and be a part of a supportive community of other students also experiencing mental health challenges.


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