When students go to university, it’s common for them to feel that it wasn’t what they expected. Many find that independence isn’t as exciting as they expected, and wonder if they chose the right course. They may think that everyone else is having a great time, and they’re the only one who’s feeling lonely and isn’t making friends. Most people get over this stage in time, and go on to enjoy their university years immensely. But for some, these early difficulties develop into serious depression, which can have a serious impact on their grades and well-being.

Typical symptoms of depression can include:

  • Feeling hopeless
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Reluctant to go out
  • Neglecting personal hygiene
  • Irritability
  • Engaging in risky behaviour
  • Losing interest in things you usually enjoy
  • Being very self-critical and feeling worthless
  • Lack of energy
  • Poor concentration

So what should you do if these feelings last?

  • Seek help. Don’t try to soldier on alone and put a brave face on it. Just talking to someone will help you feel less alone, and there is a lot of help out there. Set the wheels in motion, so that you can get help as soon as possible.
  • Talk to professionals. Your university will have a counselling service or medical centre where you can talk to professionals who are very used to dealing with your situation. Or you can register with a GP, who will consider treatment options such as counselling or medication.
  • Don’t blame yourself. You’re not a bad person, and you’ve done nothing to deserve the depression or bring it on yourself. Having depression is not a sign of weakness. It’s either a reaction to circumstances, or a chemical imbalance in your brain. It’s also very common for students to develop depression, especially during their first year.
  • Advise your tutors. Universities are usually very helpful if students have health issues, and if your tutors know, they can offer help and make allowances.
  • Look after your health. Try to get enough sleep, eat regular meals, and choose health options rather than sugary foods and junk food.
  • Avoid self-medication. Drinking or taking drugs will not help your depression, in fact they can make it worse. You should also avoid alcohol if you are taking antidepressants.
  • Stick with your treatment. Don’t stop the tablets because you feel better, unless your doctor advises you to stop. If the tablets don’t agree with you, ask about switching to a different one or dose. Attend all your counselling sessions.
  • Have faith. It may seem hopeless right now, but most people manage to come through their depression and lead happier lives.