The Depressed Student

Depression, and the variety of ways it manifests itself, is part of a natural emotional and physical response to life’s ups and downs. With the busy and demanding life of a college student, it is safe to assume that most students will experience periods of reactive depression in their college careers. It is when the symptoms become so extreme, or are so enduring, that they begin to interfere with the student’s ability to function in school, work, or social environments, that the student will come to your attention and be in need of assistance.

Typically, a depressed student may feel guilty or angry at her/himself, have trouble concentrating or remembering, lose interest in schoolwork or usual activities, or feel worthless or inadequate. Physical symptoms include changes in appetite (usually a loss of appetite), difficulty sleeping (usually trouble falling asleep or early morning wakening), and low energy level.

DO:

  • Let the student know you’ve noticed that she/he appears to be feeling down and you would like to help.
  • Reach out and encourage the student to express how she/he is feeling
  • Tell the student of your concerns
  • Offer options to further investigate and manage the symptoms of the depression, including counseling if it seems appropriate

DON’T:

  • Minimize the student’s feelings, e.g., “Don’t worry,” “Crying won’t help,” or “Everything will be better tomorrow”
  • Be afraid to ask whether the student is suicidal if you think she/he may be. (Refer to section on The Suicidal Student.)