Moving away from home, spending long hours studying, and making new friends are often part of starting college. These things can be exciting, but they can be scary, too. Sometimes they can lead to depression.
Depression is the second most common mental illness in college students. It can be mild, moderate, or severe. For some, depression can lead to low grades, problems with alcohol or drugs, and even suicide.
Depression can be caused by any stressful life change. College is often the first big life change for young adults. It can bring many new things, including:
You may look forward to some or all these changes, but sometimes they can be overwhelming.
Depression is more than just feeling down. It is an illness that can last for weeks, months, or even years. Signs of depression are:
If you or someone you know is having trouble with the stresses and changes of college life, here are some coping tips from The Jed Foundation:
If you think you are depressed, it is important to ask for help.
Talk to your regular doctor or visit the student health or counseling center. A healthcare professional will ask about your symptoms. They can refer you to a mental health specialist if needed.
Counseling and medicine are the most common treatments for depression. Counseling can help you understand and think differently about problems in your life. It can also help you learn new skills to cope with life’s ups and downs. Medication can reduce or relieve your symptoms. Sometimes counseling and medicine are used together, especially if your symptoms are severe.
Some students have such severe depression that they think of killing themselves. If you have thoughts of suicide, it is an emergency. Seek help from your college health service, counseling center, or the nearest hospital emergency department right away. Tell friends, a trusted staff or faculty member, and family members how you are feeling. This can help you can get the support you need. And try to remember that depression is an illness that can be managed. You can get help and feel better.
Even though college can be a difficult time, it is a chance for you to grow and change for the better. Depression does not have to get in the way of having a fun and successful time in college.
Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
Mental Health America
Canadian Mental Health Association
Mental Health Canada
Depression. Jed Foundation website. Available at: https://www.jedfoundation.org/depression/. Accessed September 12, 2020.
Depression. National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression. Updated February 2018. Accessed September 12, 2020.
Pedrelli P, Nyer M, Yeung A, Zulauf C, Wilens T. College Students: Mental Health Problems and Treatment Considerations. Acad Psychiatry. 2015;39(5):503-511. doi:10.1007/s40596-014-0205-9.
Villatte A, Marcotte D, Potvin A. Correlates of depression in first-year college students. Canadian Journal Higher Ed. 2017; Volume 47 (No. 1;114-136). Available at https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1140055.
Last reviewed September 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Last Updated: 9/14/2020