According to the World Health Organization (WHO), depression is an illness that impacts an estimated 280 million people worldwide. Depression is defined as feelings of severe inadequacy, guilt, hopelessness, and dejection that interfere with everyday life. Depression can impact anyone and everyone, no matter gender, race, age, or socioeconomic status. While depression does not discriminate, one population of people who may be at higher risk for it are college students.

According to the MayoClinic, about 44% of college students reported having symptoms of depression and anxiety. 30% of students reported feeling depressed this past year. An increase in depression/depressive symptoms can increase the risk for suicide. Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death in young adults ages 15-29 and about 700,000 deaths per year are from suicide.

Depression can also cause a student to feel as though they are working in a deficit and possibly against themselves. There is a difference between depression and mood fluctuations. Depression is more debilitating and interrupts/interferes with everyday normality and life.

College students are more at risk for depression seeing as though they are facing many different adversities with dramatic transitions, lack of stability, increased social and educational pressures, and growing stigmas with lack of support. Pressures to perform, for hyperachievement and perfection have really affected college students now more than ever before. This puts them at greater risks for developing mental health disorders.

Depression can look like:

  • A change in sleeping habits – insomnia or oversleeping
  • Sudden outbursts
  • Loss of interest in things that the student was once interested in
  • A change in eating habits – binge eating and/or purging, or starving themselves
  • A change in energy levels – usually decreased

Depression can lead to many other issues, both physical and mental. Such issues include but are not limited to an increased risk of:

  • Anxiety
  • Heart disease, high blood pressure
  • Cancer
  • Strokes
  • Suicidal ideation and attempts
  • Substance abuse – alcohol, recreational, and/or prescription drugs
  • Overweight/obesity
  • Emotional eating
  • Sleep disturbances

What can I do to help myself and others?

As the student, I can…

1. Seek out resources and help

  • Outreach can be in person, individual and in a group setting, via telephone/text, or even through web-based computerized programs
  • Utilizing apps such as Cerebral or Better Help – these offer affordable and accessible help and medication through your phone, at your convenience

2. Discover new self-management techniques

  • Goal setting with small, achievable, and attainable goals [long-term and short-term goals]
  • Seeking therapy
  • Non-pharmacological interventions – Journaling, meditation, deep breathing exercises
  • Pharmacological interventions
  • Social media cleanse if necessary
  • Trying a new activity
  • Doing more physical activity- running, new workout class, or even incorporating more walking into your day

3. Educate yourself and others!

  • Door to door peer outreach by Resident Assistants
  • Increasing community involvement with campus wide education events, reaching out to student-ran organizations, starting a new student organization

As a supportive parent, friend, or school official…

  • Reach out to the community, parents of the students, and other school officials
  • Make “checking in” normal
  • Normalize mental health talk – open dialogue between the students and an interdisciplinary team is very important
  • Host a “town hall” or “all-hands-on-deck” meeting to check in on everyone, address issues, and discuss progress and failures amongst the community
  • Implementing a short survey by text/email offering follow up info if needed
  • Inform and educate yourself

Community involvement is very important in managing best health outcomes and safety. Mental health does not discriminate; it affects everyone. When seeking help, do not get discouraged! Not every provider is right for you. Find someone who listens and guides you without prejudice or judgment! Remember, your feelings are valid and mental health matters! National Suicide Hotline Number 1-800-273-8255

Guest Blogger: Ashley T.