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October 1, 2019

You Are Not Alone: Major Depression in College

All the sudden, you’re in a new place, away from friends and family. Students keep coming up to you, throwing flyers in your face, giving you bins to take up to your new home…one you now share with a stranger. College is weird. And it can be scary ― there are so many new things to deal with. And because of that, depression is the most common health problem for college students. If your depression lasts for more than two weeks, talk to a mental health professional to help you determine next steps.

Struggles of Being a College Student

As you’re coping with this significant life change it’s important to remember that you’re not alone in experiencing these feelings. More than 39% of college students say they “felt so depressed that it was difficult to function.” If depression sets in while you’re on campus, there could be many different reasons for the shift in mood.

  • You’re on your own, away from family, childhood friends and the familiar comforts of home. You might also find it difficult to make friends who share the same values.
  • College courses are typically more rigorous than high school. You might find yourself falling behind in class even though you never had any trouble completing schoolwork in the past.
  • Peer pressure is real, and with the minimal supervision of campus life, it tends to happen more often than it did in high school.
  • Excessive social media use can cause feelings of isolation and jealousy.

Asking for Help

The idea of asking for help causes tension for some. Will people judge me? Will I receive the right advice? Will anyone even listen?

Find friends you can trust and confide in your family ― they will have your back during this transition from high school to college. Many colleges also have peer support groups you can attend. Not only will you come away with great advice, but you may also make friends on campus, which helps if your family and childhood friends are far away. If you want to talk to a counselor, your university may have a counseling center or health center available at discounted rates (or even for free).

Sometimes, none of those options appeal, and if you’re ever contemplating suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The line is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Finding the Right Treatment Plan

Therapy and medication combined with self-help techniques tend to be best for coping in the long-term. When you’re struggling, your family and friends can be helpful accountability resources. They can assist you in regulating your treatment, especially when you’re at home visiting and by phone when you’re away. Continue to build a strong support system of people at college as well as keeping in touch with the people you care about from home.

Don’t hesitate to take a mental health day every once in a while. If you’re not feeling like yourself, going to class and forcing yourself to focus tends to be counterproductive. Use mental health days sparingly but don’t let your fear of missing important notes prevent you from taking the time you need; you can always ask for someone’s notes during the next class.

If these techniques aren’t working and you decide to take a break from college, that’s okay. Everyone completes college on their own timeline, and there’s no right or wrong way. A break from college looks different for everyone: reassessing the decision to attend college, getting a job, traveling, finding a residential treatment center or any number of other options.

Major depression affects college students everywhere. In a different environment with so many new people, events and classes, you might feel overwhelmed (but hopefully also excited for the possibilities). Lean on your parents, your friends at home, your peers at college and mental health professionals to figure out the best course of action for you to cope with depression. So many college students have major depression; you’re not alone in your struggles, and you’ll get through this.

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