It was the beginning of her sophomore year at Tulane University. Lucy was on a sports team, involved in many on-campus clubs, and was excelling in all of her classes. Everything was working for her, but somehow, she still found herself missing home more than ever.
Towards the middle of her first semester of her sophomore year, Lucy found her grades dropping. She was not enjoying playing sports anymore, and she would much rather stay in bed than go to class. Her coaches started to notice that she was not performing well, and had little desire to do so, and they approached her about it. Already seriously depressed, Lucy did not take the criticism well, and her coaches’ good intentions just furthered her dislike of the sport.
“I just didn’t have any desire to be at school anymore. More than anything, I just wanted to go home.” Lucy said about her sophomore year.
Lucy was experiencing the same symptoms as college students across the world. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the top five symptoms of College Depression are:
1. Loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy
2. Problems falling asleep, staying asleep, or sleeping too much
3. Loss of appetite or eating too much
4. Feeling worthless or helpless
5. Feeling alone or isolated
But Lucy is not alone.
Approximately 1 out of every 4 college students suffers from some sort of mental illness. The most common mental illness in college students is depression, according to the Mayo Clinic. In fact, depression is the single most common reason why college students drop out or commit suicide in the United States.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, there are many reasons for depression in college students. Some factors include:
1. Being away from home for the first time
2. Being in a colder climate than normal
3. Feeling alone or isolated
4. Struggling in classes or on sports teams
In a recent study conducted by the American College Health Association, 30% of college students reported feeling “too depressed to function.” An additional 15% of students reported feeling symptoms of depression on a daily basis. In the United States alone, over 90% of colleges offer free health care services for their students, but only 25% of students seek this help.
Lucy’s parents were very concerned. They started to notice that “their daughter didn’t seem happy anymore.” The girl that they loved used to be “care-free, passionate, and always up for an adventure,” but she was being overshadowed by her depression.
So, what can parents do to help their children who are struggling with depression in college?
According to child psychologist Jill Emanuele, “The first thing you can do is learn the signs of depression so you know what you’re looking for…Isolating themselves from others is often a red flag for college students particularly, because they’re generally so social. You can also encourage your child to get involved in extracurricular activities at their college. One of the ways we treat depression, called ‘behavioral activation,’ goes against the inclination of depressed people to hide and isolate themselves. Instead, we strongly encourage them to participate in activities as participation in the activities, although sometimes hard for a depressed person, eventually helps to improve their mood and energy level.”
One in every four college students suffer from some mental illness, including depression. The most important thing you can do to help is be aware of the signs of depression, and be proactive.
Featured image courtesy of: http://www.npr.org/2011/01/17/132934543/depression-on-the-rise-in-college-students.