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College Students and Depression

With three kids in college, all of whom have a chronically depressed parent, any information about college students and depression catches my eye.

An article in the September NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) newsletter addresses this issue – you can read it at Freshman Year: Blues are the New Black

The author, C. O’Toole, recalls a freshman year experience with severe depression and anxiety, which led to leaving university for intensive treatment.

O’Toole relates an inability to reach out for help; to even recognize that help was needed. Too many students don’t know how to plug into campus health centers, don’t feel comfortable asking for help, or don’t realize they need help. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, in 2011, the American College Health Association–National College Health Assessment found that about 30 percent of college students reported feeling “so depressed that it was difficult to function” at some time in the past year.

In light of these numbers, it’s important that parents discuss the possibility of depression with their college-bound kids before they head off to school. If depression is known to exist in the family, this discussion becomes absolutely vital. Conversations should include depression symptoms to watch for, resources they’ll have available to them once they get to school, and regularly scheduled check-ins with trusted friends or family who can recognize changes in mood or behavior. That doesn’t imply the need for helicopter parenting – merely vigilance and preparation.

Our children are worth the effort.

5 Responses

  1. Good post…..those college years seem to be the time when so many mental illnesses either make their first appearance, or exacerbate. Family support, as well as open communication so our kids don’t feel all alone, is crucial.

    • Thanks for the comment. What really struck me about the article was the fact that it so often takes someone else intervening to get these kids the help they need, as they’re so unlikely to figure it out thesmselves.

  2. Very good post…thank you.

  3. I recently wrote a letter to my 19-year-old self. I was in my sophomore year at a competitive university and was depressed out of my mind. It’s titled, “Dear 19 Year Old Juliet”. Just thought I’d drop it here because it seems relevant-ish.

    As always, thanks for the good work you do.


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