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Depression In College Students: What Parents Can Do

As many of my readers may know, depression is a topic that sits close to my heart because I’ve suffered from this debilitating disorder in the past. The first time was when I was an adolescent (from about ages 16-20) yet was never properly diagnosed due to lack of education and resources. The second bout of depression occurred after the birth of my second baby, which I write about extensively here

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The upside is that there are various treatments available and healthy ways to manage depression for anyone who is affected. The downside is that there are still millions of people suffering from depression and suicide remains to be the second-leading cause of death for college students*.

Common risk factors for suicide include the following:

  • Loss of previous support system and social network
  • Academic stress
  • Increased pressure to succeed
  • Feelings of isolation
  • Mental illness, especially anxiety and depression
  • Lack of adequate coping skills
  • Conduct issues
  • Previous suicide attempts
  • Substance abuse
  • Interpersonal difficulties
  • History of abuse or trauma
  • Impulsivity
  • Fear of mental health stigma
  • Insomnia 

When I fell into depression first during puberty, then later during college, no one recognized the signs- not my parents, not even myself. For me, depression manifested in the form of sudden change in behavior, loss of interest in school and friends, isolation, sleeping too much, and an overwhelming sense of sadness and worthlessness. It was a dark period of my life and I wish I had the right support, knowledge and resources at the time. 

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What Parents Can Do To Help Their Children

1) Pay attention to warning signs

As parents, it is our responsibility to look out for signs of depression in our children because they are generally not mature and wise enough to deal with depression on their own and/or with their peers. Below are common signs that your son/daughter may be depressed.

  • Feeling sad or withdrawn for more than two weeks
  • Severe, out-of-control risk-taking behavior
  • Sudden overwhelming fear for no reason
  • Not eating, throwing up or using laxatives to lose weight
  • Seeing, hearing or believing things that are not real
  • Repeatedly and excessively using drugs or alcohol
  • Drastic changes in mood, behavior, personality or sleeping habits
  • Extreme difficulty in concentrating or staying still
  • Intense worries or fears that get in the way of daily activities
  • Trying to harm oneself or planning to do so

2) Check in with their own level of stigma and history with mental health

  • De-stigmatize mental illness and engage in a honest dialogue

It’s important for parents to work with their spouse and children to de-stigmatize the idea that mental illness is a weakness. Parents should regularly check in with their teens and have this imperative conversation before they head off to college. In addition, parents should make sure their children knows where to seek help if they ever need mental support. 

  • Gain education about the realities of college life today and how mental health affects all students to some degree.
  • Be informed about online tools and encourage students to use them to facilitate discussions and assess their own needs.

Here are some recommended online resources. 

1) Online tool for colleges and universities: https://screening.mentalhealthscreening.org/goblue 

2) National Alliance on Mental Illness. Starting the Conversation: College and Your Mental Health https://www.nami.org/collegeguide/download 

3) Transition from HS to college: https://www.settogo.org/ 

3) Be proactive and make a difference in your community

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As a person who struggled with depression during various points in my life, I wholeheartedly believe in the importance of raising awareness and speaking out in our communities to share, help and guide others. And today, you have a chance to do your part to make a difference in your community by participating in a brief anonymous survey!

Med-IQ is conducting an anonymous survey and would appreciate your input. The survey, which includes additional education on this topic, will take less than 15 minutes to complete. Survey responses are shared only in aggregate. Your responses to these survey questions will provide Med-IQ with important information about your experiences with depression and mental health in your college-aged child, which will help us develop future educational initiatives.

You can begin your anonymous survey here

Once you’ve completed the survey, you will have the option of providing your email address to be entered into a drawing administered by SOMA Strategies to win 1 of 10 $100 VISA gift cards. If you choose to enter, your email address will not be sold, kept, or stored; email addresses are used only to randomly draw the winners and notify them of their prize.

Depression affects millions of people in our country and so many young people are suffering in  silence. Whether it’s you, a child or a loved one who is suffering from depression, it’s my hope that this article helps you to recognize common warning signs and inspires you to help those suffering from depression, especially teens and college students.

You can learn more about my brand partner Med-IQ here.

*College Students and Suicide Fact Sheet. 2016 Fact Sheet. Accessed on June 1, 2018. Accessed at: http://www.suicidology.org/Portals/14/Re-Formatted%20College%20Students%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf?ver=2016-11-16-110354-547
**Links to external sites are provided as a convenience and for informational purposes only. They are not intended and should not be construed as legal or medical advice, nor are they endorsements of any organization. Med-IQ bears no responsibility for the accuracy, legality, or content of any external site. Contact the external site for answers to questions regarding its content.

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Join the Conversation

8 thoughts on “Depression In College Students: What Parents Can Do

  1. Wow ! amazing post ! I’m an MD , and i could not tell you how important it is to spread awareness toward this topic, and how stigmatization can affect the healing process and the relapse ! thank you so much for sharing your experience and for being a part of the awareness process.

  2. Thanks for such a deep and thought proVoking post. As A mom of two teen boys i am always worried aBout anxiety, DEPRESSION and THOUGHTS of suicide. MY husband and i tey to kwep attune to whats Going on and keep aN open line of COMMUNICATION with our boys. I sUffer fRom ANXIETY and so doEs one of my boyS so i really know what you aRe talking about. Thanks so mich for SHARING!

  3. THIS IS SUCH AN IMPORTANT TOPIC AND i THINK WHERE YOU MENTION BEING PROACTIVE AND MAKING A DIFFERENCE IN YOUR COMMUNITY, i THINK THAT’S SPOT ON. sOMETIMES i’VE FOUND THAT FOCUSING ON HELPING OTHERS OR EVEN DOING SOMETHING FOR OTHERS CAN TAKE YOUR ATTENTION OFF OF YOURSELF AND DEVELOP A REAL SENSE OF ALTRUISM.

  4. I hAve actually been giving this topic a lot of thought lately with 2 kiddos this age. Thanks for all the great information!

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