Depression and College Students

June 29, 2012

Did you know that nearly 30 percent of college students at some time in the past year reported feeling “so depressed that it was difficult to function?” (per a 2009 nationwide survey by The American College Health Association of college students)

Or that depression can lead to risky behavior such as smoking, drinking to get drunk, or seeking out recreational drugs to assuage these feelings? Or that depression is a risk factor for suicide?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), many people experience the first signs of depression during their college years. Being in college is supposed to be all about the fun, new-found freedom, and the higher education experience. It’s not supposed to be about depression.

That being said, college students experiencing the first signs of depression often don’t know where to turn. They can feel isolated, even embarrassed, and may not even realize what is happening to them. They may think their symptoms are a result of the routine stress that accompanies college. They may not want to seek help for fear of being judged by their peers.

And if left untreated, depression can have a negative impact on a student’s ability to perform academically.

Depression is more than “just” feeling sad and anxious. A person with untreated depression will have symptoms that last for long periods of time, not just a few days, and will interfere with day-to-day activities. Be aware of the symptoms of depression, which include:

  • Sad
  • Anxious
  • Empty
  • Hopeless
  • Guilty
  • Worthless
  • Helpless
  • Irritable
  • Restless

It’s important for you – and your college age children – to know there is help. Consider the following:

  • Most colleges offer free or low-cost mental health services to students.
  • Depression is a medical illness and treatment can be very effective.
  • Early diagnosis and treatment of depression can relieve depression symptoms, prevent depression from returning, and help students succeed in college and after graduation.

Read the booklet, Depression and College Students, by the NIMH, to learn more about what depression is, how it affects college students, and available treatment options.