When college students return home for weekend visits or a long break, some parents are greeted with happy and content individuals while other parents may observe their children seeming upset and sad. The latter is not something to be ignored.
Unfortunately, many college students who should be looking forward to time off after a hard semester or quarter are instead battling with college depression. It is the number one reason why college students drop out of school. In 2011, the American College of Health Association-National College Health Assessment (ACHA-NCHA) found that 30 percent of college students struggled with depression so severely that it inhibited their daily functioning. Depression can take a toll on college students’ grades, impair their judgment and make them more likely to drink, get drunk, have issues related to alcohol abuse or engage in unsafe sex. Depression also increases the risk of suicide with the ACHA-NCHA finding that at least six percent of college students had seriously considered suicide with at least one percent reporting they had made an attempt at suicide. Suicide is the leading cause of death for teens and young adults between 15 and 24 years of age.
It is imperative for parents and college students to recognize the symptoms of depression. From there, they can learn how to deal with it as soon as possible. This may include treatment or medication. The sooner the problem is addressed, the better. The longer depression goes untreated, the worse it may become, especially for college students who are away from home, stressed, possibly feeling lonely or having problems with their relationships.
Symptoms can include:
- Depressed mood, sadness or unhappiness
- Irritability or frustration
- A loss of interest in or pleasure gained from normal activities
- Sleeping problems, either insomnia or hypersomnia
- Changes in appetite or weight
- Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
- Slowed thinking or speech
- Trouble concentrating
- Thinking about death or suicide or engaging in self-harm
Tips for parents
It can be hard while children are home to know what to do and even harder to help them when they are away at school. There are ways to help students that go beyond a lot of hugs and love while they are home (though those are still highly encouraged).
- Talk and listen: Discuss how the student has been feeling and what is going on with him or her. Be sure to listen and fully engage in the conversation. Allow him or her to talk about feelings and struggles, letting the student know that his or her thoughts are just as important as he or she is.
- Be encouraging: Make sure the student knows he or she has support and express feelings of pride in how far he or she has come. Letting him or her know that he or she has parents on his or her side during this struggle can help immensely.
- Encourage the student to see a doctor: The best way to deal with depression is to talk to a doctor about the symptoms. An expert can help determine what method of treatment is best whether it’s therapy, medication or a combination of both.
Tips for students
It is important to know that each person has the power to control his or her own life and mental health, so it is necessary to know the steps to take care of oneself.
- Talk to someone: talk to parents, friends or mental health advisors on campus. It can be hard to talk about personal struggles with others, but it is one of the best things someone can do to prevent bottled up feelings and emotions.
- Take time to get help: thankfully, many professors and advisors understand what students are struggling with and can discuss the best way to balance schoolwork and class with the time needed to take for oneself.
- Limit or avoid alcohol: alcohol is a depressant and acts as a catalyst, which can make feelings of sadness seem so much worse. Going out with friends is a healthy distraction, but for those who are of legal drinking age, stay away from alcohol or keep the consumption to a minimum.
- Work at it daily: deal with depression on a daily basis. Stay organized to reduce stress, get a good night’s sleep, find support in friends and family, practice reaffirming habits that benefit mental health and know there are so many other people out there dealing with this same issue.
To learn more about depression treatment you can visit prod.sovcal.com or call (866) 819-0427 for more information.
Written by Brianna Gibbons, Sovereign Health Group writer