College can be an exciting time — with new emotions, new experiences, and new challenges — but it can also be a confusing time, filled with anxiety, uncertainty, and difficulties. Leaving family and friends, moving to a new city, meeting new people, and facing new academic challenges can easily contribute to feeling lonely and overwhelmed. For some, these feelings disappear after a short time. For others, however, these feelings linger, and thoughts of returning home, transferring schools, escaping, or even ending life may occur. If these feelings persist, they can leave an individual feeling confused and scared.
If you are experiencing these or other symptoms of depression, you are not alone. Almost everyone experiences depression at some point in life. However, it is important to know when to get help and that you can do something about depression.
Signs and Symptoms of Depression
While everyone's experience of depression is unique, the following symptoms are common:
- Decreased motivation
- Difficulty concentrating
- Poor appetite or overeating
- Low energy or fatigue
- Sleep disturbances
- Feeling hopeless
- Low self-esteem
- Self-critical thoughts
- Feeling that no one values you
- Feeling no purpose to existence
- Recurring thoughts of death
- Feeling sad, empty, alone, or hopeless
- Excessive crying
- Feeling more tense or anxious than usual
- Excessive worrying
- Overreacting to situations
- Decreased interest in activities you enjoy
- Decreased trust in others
- Easily irritated
- Wanting to spend time alone
- Difficulty relating to people
Coping with Depression
Challenge the negative thoughts in your head. Depression can make you feel alone or worthless. You might find yourself thinking that nothing good ever happens, that no one cares about you, or that things will never get better. Realize that these thoughts are coming from depression – not you.
Be aware of your stress levels. Now is not the time to be taking on new projects and responsibilities. Consider paring down what you're doing to make your schedule more manageable.
Take care of your body. Try to eat nutritious meals, get exercise, and get enough sleep (7-8 hours a night).
Surround yourself with supportive people. Friends who have a negative outlook will only make you feel more negative.
Take life one day at a time. Don’t get consumed with thoughts of the future: make small goals and don't think about the whole semester. Try to add more structure to your life.
Avoid alcohol. It is a depressant, and will only amplify your depressive feelings.
Become involved – don't take on a huge commitment, but try to find something you enjoy. Volunteering to help others might help you to focus more on positive things.
Remember depression is treatable. You may need to talk with a counselor, but you can overcome depression.
Express your feelings. Don't keep your emotions bottled up. Find a way to experience feelings that is comfortable for you – talk to someone (friend, family member, counselor, religious leader, professor, etc.), write in a journal, go to a support group.
Helping a Friend Who is Depressed
Be supportive. Listen to your friend. Set aside time so that you can talk without being interrupted. Let your friend know that you care and are willing to help.
Introduce your friend to coping techniques such as those suggested above. If these don’t seem to help, suggest that your friend seek professional help. You may wish to come to the UCS to find resources for your friend.
Understand that your friend is experiencing depression. Your friend won’t just “snap out of it.” Overcoming depression takes work and time.
Remember to take care of yourself. Being there for your friend should not come at the expense of your own health, physical or mental. If you are overwhelmed, take a step back and consider calling a counselor for advice.
If you are experiencing symptoms of depression, please reach out to us to speak with a counselor.
The resources below offer further information about depression, treatment, and resources for coping.
More About Depression
Resources for Coping
Coping With Overwhelming Feelings
This online module is designed to teach you skills and help you create an individualized coping plan for the next time you become overwhelmed.
Treatment for Depression
How Therapy Can Help
From Healthy Place – This link provides a description of what therapy can look like or do. In addition to this, it includes more extensive information on Depression/Mood Disorders and other mental health issues.
Halfofus.Com Depression Page
Half of Us is an initiative of mtvU and The Jed Foundation to raise awareness about the prevalence of mental health issues on campus and connect students to the appropriate resources to get help. This link provides resources and stories of people who have struggled with depression and other mental health problems.
Suicide Information and Support
From the Jed Foundation: The Jed Foundation is a non-profit organization working to promote emotional health and prevent suicide among college and university students.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a 24-hour, toll-free, confidential suicide prevention hotline available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. By dialing 1-800-273-TALK(8255), the call is routed to the nearest crisis center in our national network of more than 150 crisis centers.
Need more help?
UCS crisis services are available day or night. Students experiencing suicidal thoughts or any other mental health emergency can call 804-828-6200 to speak with a crisis clinician.