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Depression is 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 most students will experience periods of situational depression. A student needs assistance when the depressive symptoms become extreme or last so long that they begin interfering with the student's ability to function in school, work, or social environments.
Since faculty and staff are in a position to observe and interact with students, they are often the first to recognize a student in distress. Look for a pattern of these indicators:
- tearfulness or excessive emotions inappropriate to the situation
- markedly diminished performance
- infrequent class attendance
- increased anxiety (generalized, test, or performance)
- deterioration in personal hygiene
- significant weight gain or loss
- lack of energy or motivation
- alcohol or drug use
Students experiencing mild depression often respond well to additional attention over a short period of time. Prompt intervention increases the student's chances of returning to earlier performance levels. Do not attempt to provide in-depth counseling.
- Let the student know you are aware she or he is feeling down and you would like to provide support and assistance.
- Do not hesitate to ask the student directly if she or he is having suicidal thoughts.
- Encourage the student to make an appointment with a professional counselor to discuss how she or he is feeling.
- Minimizing the student's feelings ("Everything will be better tomorrow.")
- Bombarding the student with fix-it solutions or advice
- Trying to solve the student's problems.
- Ignoring signs of suicidal tendencies.
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