Depression In University Students: Everything You Need To Know

Depression in college students is more common than we think. Academic pressure, financial problems, difficulties in social relationships, lack of sense of life, emotional mismanagement. The conditions that mediate this mental health problem are multiple and the effects are very serious.

The suicide rate among the youngest population and, specifically, those who are pursuing a university degree, is increasingly high. Thus, and although this time is idealized from the outside and we think that few stages can be happier, the reality is quite another. That transition in which the adolescent becomes a young adult continues to be a psychological challenge.

The saddest thing is that we still do not have adequate means to prevent, detect and support. The presence of counselors or psychological assistance teams in universities is still absent in many cases. The suffering, the feeling of loneliness and the anguish that students experience is often channeled into dangerous practices, such as drugs.

Depression in college students: symptoms and causes

Depression in college students is a fact that has been going on for decades. It should be noted that in recent years the field of mental health has focused a little more on this. There are many social organizations that show interest in developing new mechanisms to tackle the problem.

Studies carried out in collaboration with Harvard University, Vrije University, Amsterdam and Friedrich-Alexander Nuremberg-Erlangen, in Germany, have already deepened what type of clinical strategies would be the most suitable to attend this population group.

Be that as it may, there is a fact. This type of depression is of paramount importance. From a social point of view we have a large group of young people who end up dropping out of their studies.

On the other hand, from a psychological perspective, the challenge is decisive. It is not just about knowing how to serve them; the key is to prevent discouragement, maladaptive behaviors, unhappiness, and suicide attempts.

Boy with computer representing depression in college students.

What is college depression?

College depression is a mood disorder that occurs in students between the ages of 17 and 25. Although it is not a diagnostic entity that appears as such in manuals such as the DSM-V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), it is easy to identify it by its own characteristics.

It is a reality conditioned by specific characteristics. The transition from adolescence to adulthood, relationship problems, academic pressure and financial difficulties are usually the main triggers.

What are the symptoms?

When we talk about psychological disorders and mental conditions, there is usually a lot of variability. Not all people express, live and suffer from depression in the same way. However, there are always common elements that help us to identify.

Scientific studies, such as those carried out by Dr. Terhi Aalto from the Finnish National Institute of Mental Health, tell us about the following indicators:

  • Irritability: feeling of sadness combined with moodiness, apathy and lack of hope.
  • Alterations: in sleeping habits and changes in diet.
  • Constant exhaustion:  with difficulty concentrating and poor academic performance.
  • Loss of interest in activities: sports, socializing.
  • Pains: back and headaches.
  • Addictions: drugs or alcohol are used as an escape mechanism.
  • Weightloss.
  • Suicidal thoughts.

Causes of depression in college students

For what is this? What triggers are there for depression in college students? There is not really just one factor. We are facing an emotional, social and psychological complexity that encompasses multiple elements.

In the first place, they are in a complex transition that is that which goes from adolescence to maturity. A stage of great responsibilities opens. Academic pressure, uncertainty and economic problems are elements of great relevance.

We cannot ignore the relational. It is in this period where new emotional challenges, relationship and friendship problems open up. Bullying dynamics are also common in the university . Many live with the sadness and anxiety of having left family and friends in their cities of origin.

Likewise, we must also speak of the lack of vital meaning. Many students are not sure what they are going to do tomorrow, even if they really like that college degree.

To all these ingredients we must add another that tends to cloud it and complicate it much more. Technology and social media are that parallel universe from which they filter the world. The distortion and pressure that the digital universe creates is another conditioner.

Girl representing depression in college students.

Therapeutic strategies for depression in college students

Depression in college students is a reality on the rise. To prevent, detect and treat we need the collaboration of all social agents. Parents and teachers must be those close figures capable of identifying the young person who suffers, who neglects studies and who has lost interest in almost everything.

What type of therapeutic approach is the most suitable in these cases? There are several therapies that can be used and that are effective:

  • Behavioral activation therapy : This approach seeks to enable the person to cope with life’s problems. It addresses both the conditions that have led to depression and the strategies for coping with it. The goal is to activate the person to be responsible for their recovery.
  • Cognitive therapy: in this case, the goal is to help the student become aware of the debilitating thoughts that fuel their discomfort and suffering. In addition, emotional management and the introduction of healthier behaviors are facilitated.
  • Problem solving: This is another essential competency in coping with depression. Being able to handle everyday challenges with good resources and strategies is an indisputable pillar.
  • Social skills: we can have young people with clear limitations in this area. Teaching them to be assertive, to know how to communicate and to relate through emotional intelligence is an ideal strategy.

Depression in college students is a subject of indisputable social urgency. Investing in mental health for our youth is investing in the future.

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