Depression and College Students: Causes, Signs, and Solutions

Depression and College Students: Causes, Signs, and Solutions

Depression in College Students

Depression among college students is a significant issue that has been gaining increased attention in recent years. With the unique challenges and pressures faced by young adults during their transition to higher education, it's essential to address the mental health needs of this population.


The Connection Between Stress and Depression

Most parents of college students will tell you that there are certain things to expect during the first year away from home. Homesickness, adjusting to a new schedule, and making new friends are all normal parts of the college experience. However, there's one thing that many parents don't anticipate: stress.

While a certain amount of stress is to be expected during the college years, too much stress can lead to serious consequences. According to the American Psychological Association, chronic stress can lead to health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, and depression. What's more, stressed-out students are more likely to engage in risky behaviors such as excessive drinking or drug use. 

If you’re a parent, it’s probably been a while since you were a college student. Sometimes we take for granted how a few years, or decades, can help us learn to navigate stressful situations. As a refresher, it might be helpful to remember a few things that cause stress for new college students and impact students' mental health. It's also important to remember the role mental health counseling plays in diagnosing and treating mental illness.

Causes of stress

Relationship Problems

Whether it's dealing with a break-up or managing the stress of a long-distance relationship, relationship problems are one of the most common sources of stress for college students. As a parent, you can provide support by being a good listener and offering advice when asked. You can also help by putting your college student in touch with resources like campus counseling services or therapy referral services. 


School or Work Pressure 

For many college students, the pressure to succeed academically or professionally is immense. If your child is struggling to keep up with their workload, offer to help them develop a plan to get organized and manage their time more effectively. You can also suggest that they talk to their professors or boss about ways to lighten their load. 


Financial Concerns 

Money troubles are another big source of stress for college students. If your child is struggling to make ends meet, offer to help them develop a budget or look for scholarships and financial aid opportunities. You can also encourage them to talk to their financial aid office about payment options or work-study programs that could help ease the burden. 


Health Issues 

Physical and mental health issues are also common sources of stress for college students. If your child is dealing with a health problem, offer to help them find resources like campus health services or therapy referral services. You can also encourage them to talk to their doctor about ways to manage their stress levels. Conclusion: Being a college student is tough enough without having to worry about being stressed out all the time. If you're a parent of a college student, there are fortunately things you can do to help ease their stress levels.

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Signs of stress when no one is talking

But what if your new college student isn’t openly talking about the stress they're experiencing? As the old adage says, sometimes actions are louder than words. During this time of newfound independence, your child might be afraid or even ashamed to talk about the difficulties they’re having adjusting to college life, but more than likely there are other signs that can clue you into possible problems.

Here are a few observable signs that point toward a stressed student:

Changes in mood or behavior

Is your once-outgoing child now withdrawn and distant? Do they seem more irritable than usual? These may be signs that they're struggling to cope with the demands of college life.

Difficulty sleeping or concentrating

Stress can interfere with sleep, which can in turn make it difficult to concentrate on schoolwork. If your student seems exhausted all the time or is struggling to keep up with their classes, stress may be to blame.

Feeling overwhelmed or out of control

When faced with too much stress, it's common for people to feel like they're losing control. If your student feels like they're constantly running behind or like they're never going to catch up, that's a sign that they need help managing their stress levels.


Increased anxiety or irritability

Stress can cause physical symptoms such as increased anxiety or irritability. If your student seems on edge all the time or is easily agitated, it may be due to stress. 


Physical symptoms, such as headaches, nausea, or chest pain

In some cases, stress can lead to physical symptoms such as headaches, nausea, or chest pain. If your student is complaining of any of these symptoms, it's worth checking in to see if they're dealing with too much stress.

Solutions: How to help

If you notice any of the above signs in your college student, there are some key things that you can do to help them manage the stress their experiencing.


1. Encourage Them To Take Breaks And Get Some Exercise

It's important for your college student to take some time for themselves this semester. encourage them to take breaks throughout the day to relax and rejuvenate. Exercising for at least 20 minutes three times a week is also a great way to reduce stress.


2. Make Sure They're Eating Right

With all the demands of classes and extracurricular activities, it can be easy for college students to let their diets slide. Make sure your student is eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. And try to limit their intake of caffeine and alcohol.

3. Help Them Stay Organized

A little bit of organization can go a long way toward reducing stress. Help your student make a schedule or use a planner to keep track of assignments and due dates. 


4. Get Them Involved In Campus Life

College is about more than just academics! encourage your student to get involved in campus life by joining clubs or organizations that interest them. Participating in campus activities is a great way to meet new people and make lasting memories. 

We know that sending your child off to college can be stressful. But with a little bit of planning and preparation and lots of patience, you can help them make it through the semester with flying colors! 

Positive Developments in Mental Health Services on College Campuses

Recognizing the increasing prevalence of mental health problems among students, colleges, and universities are taking proactive measures to address the mental health needs of young adults. These institutions prioritize mental health care by allocating resources, funding, and personnel to provide comprehensive mental health services on their campuses.

Mental health professionals on college campuses play a crucial role in offering mental health care to students experiencing depression and anxiety symptoms. To cater to the unique needs of young adults, colleges and universities are working closely with the American College Health Association (ACHA) to ensure that mental health services are robust, accessible, and tailored.

As a result, many college campuses have seen significant improvements in their mental health resources, reducing the impact of poor mental health services on students' well-being. This allows students to effectively manage their mental health symptoms with the necessary support.

Additionally, colleges and universities are fostering connections with off-campus mental health resources in their communities. By promoting awareness and utilization of these resources, students can access additional support and care beyond what is available on campus.

Collaboration between mental health professionals, educational institutions, and community resources strengthens the network of mental health services available to students. This comprehensive approach to mental health care helps students navigate lifetime mental health problems and empowers them to prioritize their well-being during their college years.


Get Help

If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, there are resources available to help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24/7 free, and confidential support for people in distress. You can call them by dialing 988 or 800-273-TALK (8225).

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