What Parents Need to Know About Depression in College Students

Has your child recently started their first year at college? Congratulations! After all the college admissions applications, high school graduation ceremonies, and campus tours, deciding to pursue a bachelor’s degree is a huge accomplishment that any parent should be proud of.

However, as a parent, you might be feeling anxious about your child going off on their own. A large concern that many parents have is whether or not their child will be able to handle the academics, the social scene, and the newfound independence.

It’s no secret that the transition to college can be a difficult time for high school students. While all young people face struggles during their transition from teenagers to college kids, many students develop depression, anxiety, or other mood disorders during their first few months away from home. It’s perfectly reasonable to be worried about their mental health.

If your child develops mental health problems or substance abuse issues, they may not always know how to seek support. It can be tough to watch your child suffer and not know how to help. As a parent, if you feel helpless, there are things you can do to support your child.

What is depression?

Depression is more than just feeling down or sad. Depression is a real medical condition that can be devastating to your child’s life. Depression can make it hard to concentrate, eat, sleep, and enjoy activities that used to make them happy. In the worst cases of depression, a college student may struggle with poor academic performance, substance use, or suicidal thoughts.

This happens for a variety of reasons, but it’s important to remember that depression is not your child’s fault. A mood disorder is a real illness and the exact causes are not always known.

There are many different symptoms of depression, and they vary from person to person. Some common symptoms include:

  • Feeling hopeless, helpless, or worthless
  • Persistent sadness or emptiness
  • Irritability or frustration, even over small things
  • Loss of interest in activities that used to bring joy
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
  • Fatigue or decreased energy
  • Changes in appetite or weight (usually a decrease in appetite and weight, but some people experience increased cravings for food and weight gain)
  • Sleep problems (insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping)
  • Restlessness or irritability
  • Persistent physical symptoms that don’t respond to treatment (headaches, digestive problems, chronic pain)
  • Self harm
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

If your child is experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important to get them help. This is especially true if your child has been experiencing these symptoms for more than a few weeks. College depression is a serious condition, but it’s also treatable.

What causes depression in college students?

There are many different factors that can contribute to depression in college students. Some students might be struggling with academic pressure. Others might be homesick or dealing with relationship problems. There are many risk factors for depression including a family history of depression, financial stress, or another specific diagnosis of mental illness

Many students also experience what’s known as “transition stress.” This is the stress that comes from leaving home and adjusting to a new environment. It can be tough to cope with all of the changes, especially if your child is away from home for the first time.

There are also some lifestyle factors that can contribute to depression. For example, students who party hard or use drugs and alcohol are more likely to experience depression. This is because substances can worsen the symptoms of depression and make it harder to recover.

What are the risks of depression in college students?

Depression can have a serious impact on your child’s life. It can lead to academic struggles, making it hard to concentrate and do well in school. Depression can also lead to social isolation, as your child may pull away from friends and activities they once enjoyed.

In severe cases, depression can even lead to thoughts of suicide. It’s important to talk to your child about their mental health and be on the lookout for warning signs of suicide, such as talking about wanting to die or hurt oneself, expressing feelings of hopelessness, or giving away prized possessions.

If you’re concerned about your child’s mental health, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. There are many resources available to college students struggling with mental health issues.

What can parents do to help?

If your child is dealing with depression, there are a few things you can do to help. First, it’s important to talk to your child about their condition. This can be a difficult conversation, but it will let them know that you’re there for them and that you support them.

If your child’s behavior seems out of the ordinary to you, don’t be afraid to suggest that they consult mental health professionals on campus. They are trained to focus on a student’s well being and will help them overcome difficult emotions and prevent depression in the future. A young adult experiencing depression may also find more support from fellow students if they feel overwhelmed.

You should also encourage your child to seek professional help. This can be in the form of therapy, medication, or both. Many colleges have mental health services available for students, so encourage your child to make an appointment.

In addition, you can help your child by making sure they’re taking care of themselves. This means eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, and exercising. You should also encourage them to avoid drugs and alcohol, as these can make depression worse.

Finally, you can offer your child a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on. Just being there for your child can make a big difference in their recovery.

What to do if you think your child has depression?

Sometimes parents are the ones who notice the signs of depression first. If you’re worried about your child, there are a few things you can do.

First, try to talk to your child about your concerns. Be respectful and understanding, and let them know that you’re there for them. It’s important to give them the opportunity to open up to you.

If your child is reluctant to talk, there are other ways you can get them help. You can contact their doctor or mental health professional. You can also reach out to the college’s counseling service.

Remember, you don’t have to go through this alone. There are many people and resources available to help you and your child.

Top 10 Treatment Options

If your child is dealing with depression, there are a few different treatment options available. These include:


This can be in the form of individual therapy, group therapy, or family therapy. Therapists can help young adults identify and change negative thinking patterns, develop healthy coping strategies, and build self-esteem. Many college students take advantage of the free mental health services that their school provides through the student health center.


There are a variety of medications available to treat depression. These include antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, and mood stabilizers. Medication can be an effective treatment for depression, but it’s important to work with a doctor to find the right medication and dosage.

TMS Therapy

TMS stands for transcranial magnetic stimulation. It is a non-invasive, FDA-cleared treatment that is completely safe and twice as effective as an oral medication for depression. TMS is covered by most insurance.


Exercise has been shown to be an effective treatment for depression, especially alongside clinical interventions. It can help improve mood, increase energy levels, and reduce stress. This is a particularly effective treatment for college depression, as young adults in school likely have more free time and access to gym equipment.

Nutrition and Sleep

Eating a healthy diet can help improve mood and energy levels. Be sure to include plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein in your child’s diet. Additionally, getting the right amount of sleep, not too much and not too little, is vital for overall health and well-being. It can also help reduce stress and improve mood. Make sure your child is getting at least eight to nine hours of sleep each night.

Avoid Drugs and Alcohol

Drugs and alcohol can make depression worse. Educate your child about the risks of substance misuse on their brain and overall well being.

Herbal Remedies

There are a variety of herbal remedies that can be effective for depression. These include St. John’s Wort, SAMe, and omega-3 fatty acids. Be sure to discuss trying an alternative or complementary herbal solution with your doctor, as many of these compounds can interact with other treatments and medications.

Light Therapy

This therapy involves exposure to bright light. It can be an effective treatment for seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and it may also help improve mood in people with depression.

These are just a few of the many treatment options available for depression. If you’re not sure what’s right for your child, talk to their doctor or mental health professional.

Final Thoughts

Overall, as a parent, it’s important to be there for your child if they’re dealing with depression. Be sure to offer support and understanding, and help them find the resources and treatment options they need.

Neuro Wellness Spa can help you and your child determine the best course of action when it comes to treating their depression while considering their specific treatment needs, circumstances, preferences, and goals. Depression is a serious illness, but there are many different options when it comes to treatment.

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