Mental health problems on college campuses are a growing concern for many parents. When you look at the numbers, it’s easy to see why. In his blog, The College Shrink, David Leibow, M.D. shared these stats:
Based on a 2009 survey conducted by the American College Health Association-National College Health Assessment (ACHA-NCHA II), 39 percent of college students will feel hopeless during the school year, 25 percent will feel so depressed they’ll find it hard to function, 47 percent will experience overwhelming anxiety, and 84 percent will feel overwhelmed by all they have to do.
Sure, everyone has bad days—and there’s no doubt that your college kid has experienced a few of those. But what happens when those bad days turn into bad weeks or even months? How do you know if your child is stuck in a rut or battling depression?
Before we get into the signs of depression, please keep in mind that the YCK staff is by no means experts on this subject. So if you are worried about your college kid, it’s important that you reach out to a professional for advice.
Back to the warning signs. It may not be easy to spot some of these signs, especially since most kids are too proud to admit that they’re depressed. Hopefully, when you tell your son or daughter that you’re concerned and you want to talk, they’ll feel comfortable enough to confide in you.
According to HelpGuide.org, here are the common signs and symptoms of depression you should focus on:
Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. Do they have a bleak outlook—like nothing will ever get better and there’s nothing they can do to improve their situation?
Loss of interest in daily activities. Have they lost interest in former hobbies, pastimes and social activities? Have they lost their ability to feel joy and pleasure?
Appetite or weight changes. This may be a little tougher to detect because of the famous “freshmen 15,” but have they experienced significant weight loss or weight gain—a change of more than 5% of body weight in a month?
Sleep changes. Late night cram sessions have probably already done a number on your college kid’s sleeping habits. Find out if it’s more than that—either insomnia, especially waking in the early hours of the morning, or oversleeping (also known as hypersomnia).
Irritability or restlessness. Are they feeling agitated, restless, or on edge? Is their tolerance level low; everything and everyone gets on their nerves?
Loss of energy. Are they feeling fatigued, sluggish, and physically drained? Ask if their whole body feels heavy, and if even small tasks are exhausting or take longer to complete.
Self-loathing. Do they have strong feelings of worthlessness or guilt? Are they harshly criticizing themselves for perceived faults and mistakes?
Concentration problems. Are they having trouble focusing, making decisions, or remembering things?
Unexplained aches and pains. Is there an increase in physical complaints such as headaches, back pain, aching muscles and stomach pain?
Depression is a touchy subject for anyone—and that may be especially true for college kids who are striving to be perfect. Everyone tells them their college years are supposed to be “awesome” and “the best time of their life” yet for many, college can be an enormous struggle. Unfortunately, most just don’t want to admit it.
So if you think your college kid is dealing with depression and you want to talk to them about it, make it clear that it’s nothing to be ashamed of—college students everywhere are experiencing the same thing.
The College Shrink: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-college-shrink