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Recognising signs of depression in College and University Students and what to do about it

22nd July 2019

From primary school to college or university, each new start for a child may be just as emotional for a parent.

Further education is an exciting time where young adults step out for themselves and start the journey which comes with all the responsibilities of living away from home

From learning to study independently, hand in assignments on time, organise finances and live with new people, it’s often their health and wellbeing that can be forgotten or overlooked.

Starting college or university is a major life event, so it’s no wonder that students are vulnerable to depression during this stage of life.

General facts:
• At any one time, a sixth of the population in England aged 16 to 64 have a mental health prob-lem, according to statistics body NHS Digital.
• Most mental health problems develop in childhood or when a person is a young adult. Three-quarters of problems are established by the age of 24. (Mental Health Taskforce)

The definition of depression:

Depression is a common mental health problem that causes people to experience low mood, loss of interest or pleasure, feeling of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, low energy and poor concentration. (Mental Health Foundation)

There are several reasons why students in particular may experience depression, but this list is not exhaustive.

• Homesickness and loneliness
• Financial stress
• Academic stress
• Poor body image and low self esteem
• Drug and alcohol use
• Social media use

How to recognise the symptoms:

Symptoms vary among young people but generally encompass a feeling of sadness or hopeless-ness. Other symptoms include:

• Tiredness and loss of energy
• Loss of appetite or overeating
• Diminished interest in activities that were once enjoyable
• Trouble sleeping
• Feeling of guilt or worthlessness
• Decreased energy
• Thoughts of suicide or increased thoughts about death
• Difficulty making decisions
• Persistent headaches, stomachaches, muscle pain

What are the causes of depression?

The causes can be genetic, external or a mix of both. “The chemicals in a person’s brain can af-fect the likelihood to experience depression or people with characteristics such as low self es-teem are more likely to suffer. There can be outward factors such as exposure to violence, abuse or grief,” explains Anna Adams, an educator at Essay Help and Academized.

I think I have depression, what should I do next?

• Write down the symptoms, record any progression, this will help when talking to someone.
• If symptoms persist, talk to a doctor, psychiatrist or therapist as soon as possible.
• If feeling suicidal, get help immediately.
• Remember, there is nothing wrong or shameful about asking for help.

What should I do as a parent?

It may not be easy to spot changes in your child if they go to college away from home. But if you are concerned make sure you talk to them regularly. Don’t be afraid to ask how they are feeling. Let them know you would like to help. Don’t say ‘it’ll all work out’ or ‘things will look brighter soon’. Encourage them to get help through campus resources such as the student counselling centre or online support groups.

Many colleges and most universities have a free and confidential counselling service. You can find this out on the university website and it’s available to both undergraduates and postgraduates.

“Most universities also have a mental health adviser and many student unions offer student-led services where students may prefer to talk about their problems with other students instead of qualified counsellors,” says Kerry Night, a psychologist at OX Essays and Coursework Writing.

How is depression treated?

Depression can be treated with medication such as anti-depressants or talking therapy with a doctor or psychotherapist, through mindfulness and self help

How can self-care help?

Alongside medical advice, these tips for self-care can make a difference.
• Get enough sleep.
• Move your body.
• Eat a healthy diet.
• Avoid drugs and alcohol.
• Practice mindfulness.
• Build a support system.
• Gentle Exercise.
• Yoga or Pilates.
• Self Help Organisations.

Resources for students:

If you are experiencing depression, you are NOT ALONE. You can access support online and im-mediately;

• National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
• ULifeline.
• NHS Choices’ Moodzone
• Students Against Depression
• Mind: 0300 123 3393
• Nightline: A confidential listening and support service for students, run by students.
• Samaritans: 116 123

Chloe Bennet is a blog editor at Boom Essays and UK Writings services. She also writes health articles for university students. Also, Chloe tutors at Essay Roo portal

Chloe Bennet