Depression and the variety of ways it manifests itself, is a part of a natural emotional and physical response to life's ups and downs. With the busy and demanding life of a college student, it is safe to assume that most students will experience periods of reactive depression in their college years. It is when the depressive symptoms become so extreme or are so enduring that they begin to interfere with the student's ability to function in school, work, or social environment, that the student will come to your attention and be in need of assistance.

Due to the opportunities which faculty and staff have to observe and interact with students, they are often the first to recognize that a student is in distress. Look for a pattern of these indicators:

  • Tearfulness / general emotionality
  • Markedly diminished performance
  • Dependence (a student who makes excessive requests for your time)
  • Infrequent class attendance
  • Lack of energy / motivation
  • Increased anxiety / test anxiety / performance anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Deterioration in personal hygiene
  • Significant weight loss or gain
  • Alcohol or drug use

Students experiencing depression often respond well to a small amount of attention for a shirt period of time. Early intervention increases the changes of the student's rapid return to optimal performance.

Let the student know you're aware that they are feeling down and you would like to helpBombard the student with "fix it" solutions or advice
Reaching out more than halfway and encourage the student to discuss how they are feelingChastise the student for poor or incomplete work
Offer options to further investigate and manage the symptoms of the depressionBe afraid to ask whether the student is suicidal
Submit a STARs report if you feel the student would benefit from additional outreachMinimize the student's feelings, ie: "Don't worry, everything will be better tomorrow."

The UMass Lowell Red Folder contains more information for faculty and staff on warning signs of a struggling student and more.

Content adapted and with permission from the University of Kentucky Counseling Center.