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Depression has often been called “the common cold” of mental health. Depression, and the various ways in which it manifests itself, is part of a natural emotional and physical response to life’s ups and downs. With the busy and demanding lifestyle of most college students, it is safe to assume that many will experience periods of situational depression in their college career. Major depression, however, is a whole body concern, involving a person’s body, mood, thoughts and behavior. People with depression cannot just “pull themselves together” and get better. Depression interferes with a student’s ability to function in school and/or their social environment. Without treatment symptoms can last a few weeks, months or years.

Faculty and staff have a unique opportunity to recognize a student who is depressed. Look for patterns of the following symptoms, understanding that not everyone who is depressed experiences every symptom and that symptom levels can differ from person to person.

Symptoms of Depression:

  • Feelings of sadness or emptiness
  • Feeling hopeless, pessimistic
  • Loss of interest in pleasurable activities
  • Lacking motivation
  • Frequent tearfulness
  • Insomnia or increased sleeping
  • Increase or decrease in eating or changes in weight
  • Decreased energy, fatigue, feeling slowed down
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment
  • Inconsistent class attendance
  • Decline in personal hygiene

Students experiencing depression often respond well to a small amount of attention and can benefit from knowledge that they do not have to continue to experience symptoms. Early intervention increases the chances of getting better.

It is helpful to:

  • Let the student know you have noticed they are feeling down and you would like to help.
  • Encourage the student to discuss how she/he is feeling.
  • Offer options to attend to and manage the symptoms of depression.
  • Always encourage the student to seek help, suggesting Counseling Services.

It is not helpful to:

  • Minimize student’s feelings (i.e. “everything will be better tomorrow”).
  • Bombard the student with “fix it” solutions.
  • Neglect to ask if the student is suicidal if you think this is a possibility.
  • Ignore remarks about suicide (always call Counseling Services or Student Development).