College is supposed to be one of your life’s most exciting and transformative times. Right? New people, new ideas, and endless possibilities surround you. But what happens when you’re struggling with something that feels like it’s holding you back from all of that?
The reality is very different for many first-year college students in the UK. According to the Office for National Statistics, 37% of first-year students surveyed in England have symptoms of depression and anxiety. That’s more than a third of all first-year students, and a worrying statistic compared to the general population of those aged 16-29, where 22% report similar symptoms.
Depression is a common struggle for many college students and teenagers. It can feel like you’re trapped in a dark cloud that follows you everywhere you go, making it hard to focus on your studies, friendships, and future. But there’s hope. In fact, there’s more hope than you might think.
This blog intents to shed light on the journey through college depression and provide hope for struggling students. Whether you are battling depression or simply seeking a better understanding of this complex issue, this blog is for you.
First, What is College Depression?
College depression is a mood disorder that can affect students during their time in school. Unlike other forms of depression, it’s not a specific diagnosis but rather a term used to describe depression that occurs during college. Academic pressures, social isolation, financial struggles, and more can trigger this type of depression.
Depression is more than only feeling sad and blue for a short period. It’s a complex mood disorder that can cause persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and a lack of interest in activities that once brought joy. According to the Mayo Clinic, major depression is a mood disorder that causes these symptoms to last for at least two weeks or longer.
It’s important to recognise that depression is not a sign of weakness and can affect anyone regardless of background or circumstances. While there are many types of depression, the symptoms of major depression can be severe and impact daily life.
Signs of Depression
Depression is a serious mood disorder affecting millions of people worldwide. For college students, the pressures of academic life, socialising, and planning for the future can sometimes trigger depressive symptoms. Here are some common signs that you may be struggling with depression:
- Persistent feelings of sadness
- Low self-esteem
- Being on edge
- Difficulties with concentration
- Feeling like you’re not good enough
- Weight loss
- Low energy
- Isolating or avoiding friends
- Having suicidal thoughts
- Feeling like you don’t want to do anything
- Increase in alcohol or drug use
However, you may also experience other physical symptoms like digestive problems, headaches, pains, and muscle aches.
Causes of Depression in College Students
Depression is a complex disorder that can have many underlying causes. There are several causes of depression, both personal and circumstantial, that may contribute to the onset of the condition. While no single cause has been identified, several factors may make college students more vulnerable to depression in the UK.
Some common causes of depression in college students are:
1. Life transition
One significant factor that can contribute to depression in college students is life transitions. College is the first time many students are away from home, and they are suddenly faced with many new decisions and responsibilities. This can cause fear, excitement, confusion, and loneliness.
2. Academic Pressure
College is a time when students face intense academic pressure. The pressure to perform well on exams, assignments, and projects can be overwhelming. This pressure can lead to feelings of stress and anxiety, which can eventually turn into depression.
It is another factor that can contribute to depression in college students. Even if students have friends on campus or the support of their family back home, they may still feel alone.
For many college students, leaving home and adjusting to a new environment can be difficult. Homesickness can commonly trigger depression, as students may feel disconnected from their support systems.
5. Financial Stress
College is also a time when students may face financial stress. The high cost of tuition, housing, and other expenses can be a burden for many students. Financial stress can lead to feelings of hopelessness and despair, which can trigger depression.
6. Relationship Issues
College is also a time when many students navigate new relationships. Relationship issues can be a significant source of stress and can contribute to the development of depression.
7. Environmental stressors
It can also contribute to depression in college students. Climate change, police violence, and the COVID-19 pandemic are just a few examples of issues that can cause stress and anxiety in students. According to a recent survey, 95% of college students experienced a negative mental health outcome from the pandemic.
5 Tips for Managing Depression in College Students
Depression can be challenging to manage, but there are steps you can take to help cope with your symptoms. Here are five tips for managing depression in college students:
1. Build a support system
Having a support system is crucial for managing depression. This can include family, friends, mental health professionals, or support groups. You may also consider joining a campus club or organisation that aligns with your interests. Building a support system can help you feel less alone and provide a safe space to discuss your experiences.
2. Prioritise sleep
Getting adequate sleep is essential for maintaining physical and mental health. College students should aim for 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Getting enough sleep helps the body recover, promotes mood, and improves concentration and academic performance.
3. Practice self-care
Taking care of yourself is essential when managing depression. This includes getting healthy foods and engaging in physical activity. You may also want to consider incorporating relaxation techniques into your daily routine.
4. Manage stress
College can be a major source of stress, and high-stress levels can increase the risk of depression. Students should develop stress management techniques that work best for them, such as exercise, healthy eating, journaling, or building a support system.
5. Avoid drugs and alcohol
Drug and alcohol use can exacerbate symptoms of depression and make it more difficult to manage. Substance abuse can become a self-treatment for depression, but it can lead to more significant problems in the long run. Avoiding drugs and alcohol can be an essential step in promoting mental wellness.
6. Seek professional help
A mental health professional can help diagnose depression, identify any underlying medical issues, and recommend a treatment plan. Even if attending in-person appointments is not feasible, virtual visits can be a great place to start the conversation.
The Bottom Line
Navigating college life while struggling with depression can be a daunting and isolating experience. You must remember that you are not alone; resources and support are available to help you on your journey. By reaching out for help, practicing self-care, and connecting with others, you can find hope in the shadows and create a fulfilling college experience.
So, if you feel like you’re stuck in the shadows of depression, don’t give up hope. You may find a light at the end of the tunnel, and we’re here to help you find it.