Many of us remember college as a wondrous time of new experiences and great freedom to explore new ideas and find one’s true self. However, today, college students report unprecedented levels of anxiety and depression.
“In recent years depression and anxiety have afflicted college students at alarming rates. As noted in the latest Center for Collegiate Mental Health report, anxiety and depression are the top reasons that college students seek counseling. Studies show that 1 in 5 university students are affected with anxiety or depression." - David Rosenberg, Professor of Psychiatry and Neuroscience at Wayne State University
In this MedCircle series, Dr. Judy Ho (Dr. Judy) will discuss the problems of depression and anxiety as it pertains to college students. After viewing Dr. Judy's series on MedCircle, both college students and parents will be equipped to deal with these problems should they arise.
It is important to understand what anxiety and depression look like in a college student, before you can address the problem.
As we have learned from other MedCircle Series on depression, depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and lost of interest.
College depression is not a clinical diagnosis, but rather a depression that begins during college. Find out what parents and high schools can do to help make a college student’s experience less stressful. Dr. Judy also discusses what the stressors are that college students will face, and why they may not be as adept as past generations in dealing with those stressors. She also offers tips on how to help your child make the emotional transition from high school to college. Resiliency is also an important trait in overcoming or succumbing to depression and/or anxiety.
How can a parent bolster resiliency in their child before they go off to college? Dr. Judy will explain just how that can be done.
This important episode guides a worried parent through the process of discovery. Is my college student just burned out, or truly depressed and anxious?
Dr. Judy explains the difference between being burned out or being depressed. It may be difficult at times because there can be an overlap between the two.
One symptom of burnout can also be a symptom of depression, but after watching this MedCircle series, you will be able to decipher between the two.
The other difficulty with college depression is that this might be the first time the person has felt depressed. As a result, they may not even understand what is going on, what they are feeling. A parent can help by asking questions, and asking them the right way. Dr. Judy encourages a parent to stimulate conversation by asking certain questions without bombarding the child with questions. Learn how the technique of motivational interviewing works.
What behaviors are zero tolerance behaviors? Make sure that your child understands what those are.
As parents, you may back away from your child when they enter college, giving your child the freedom that they want or deserve. But remember, this is also a time of high stress and a time when known support systems are not there. Questions or concerns can be raised with respect and caring.
Learn how to change the dynamic of your ongoing conversations with your child.
If a college feels like he or she is experiencing depression, or just feels like something isn’t feeling right, what can they do? Dr. Judy discusses the DSM-5 criteria for diagnosing a person with depression or anxiety.
The American Psychiatric Association defines the DSM-5 as such: “DSM-5 is the handbook used by health care professionals in the United States and much of the world as the authoritative guide to the diagnosis of mental disorders. DSM contains descriptions, symptoms, and other criteria for diagnosing mental disorders."
A student should seek help from a trained professional, and not try to self-diagnose on the internet. Most, if not all, campuses have a counseling center on premises. This would be the best place to start. The student can be evaluated and see if they meet enough of the criteria of the DSM-5 to get a diagnosis of depression or anxiety.
Find out why hot lines and teletherapy are sometimes used, but may not be the best place to start. It is important for nurses working in infirmeries on campuses to be trained to spot whether or not a student seems to be suffering from a mental disorder, and send them to the proper healthcare provider. Many physical ailments are caused by a mental health issue. Dr. Judy also discusses how to know if the counselor you are seeing is working for you. She discusses what you should do if you need to make a change in your therapist.
(Everyone, including college students, should understand the different types of mental health conditions and treatment options that are available.)
You may be surprised by what Dr. Judy says about a family member sharing his or her mental health issues with the college student who is suffering. Is this a good thing, or not?
Bottom line is know what you’re feeling, seek the help that is around you, and reach out to family and friends. Even though college kids may not have a lot of disposable income, the counseling centers are quite affordable to the students. You won’t have to suffer because you think you can’t afford help.
You can prevent some depressions and manage most depressions by integrating healthy strategies into your daily routine. Dr. Judy discusses five strategies that she believes are essential to good mental health. Find out what these strategies are in session four. Are these the same strategies that are used by adults in alleviating their depression? Find out why joining groups with like minded people can be so healthy in combating your depression.
Dr. Judy also reminds us what we should stay away from in college if we are struggling with a mental health issue. What are the dangers of too much social media in trying to maintain good mental health? Parents can lead by example when trying to incorporate healthier lifestyle choices into their child’s life.
Do as you say, AND as you do — a twist on the old adage.
Remember, a healthy body can lead to a healthy mind. Take the time to take care of yourself.
Some types of treatment work better for college students than other types of treatments. College kids are busy, they are trying to fit into their new environment, etc. Find out which treatment strategies work best for college kids. Dr. Judy lists them, and explains why these may be better alternative strategies. Medications may or may not be prescribed in a college student’s treatment. Dr. Judy does a great job in discussing the pros and cons, and what to expect if your child is prescribed a medication.
With a proper diagnosis, a person, (college student included) can begin the journey of recovery, of feeling better. But it doesn’t begin and end with the diagnosis. College campuses have counseling centers for therapy and they are usually free. A person should use what is at his or her disposal to help treat the depression or anxiety. Parents should be supportive, and make sure you see that the treatment plan is working - ask questions, follow up with concerns, check in with your child.
College can be turbulent at times, but it shouldn’t have to be painful.