College Depression: What Do Parents Need to Know?

When young adults go off to college, parents try to check in frequently to see how their child is doing, but the level of support they can provide is not the same as it was when they were living at home. Depression is common among college students, with 1 in 5 students experiencing signs of depression, but they are less likely to disclose that they are struggling to their parents as they don’t want them to worry about them from miles away. While there are often resources available on campus, many young adults feel ashamed that their symptoms of depression can interfere with their school success and want to keep up a happy facade. The Mayo Clinic recently released a guide for parents that answers questions about how to support their child dealing with college depression.

Why are college students vulnerable to depression?

The emotional transition to college can be challenging for young adults. Many students are away from home for the first time and may not know anyone on their first day of class. They’re adapting to new schedules and workloads, adjusting to life with roommates, and figuring out how to belong. As they try to make friends with other people, they may struggle with feeling lonely and helpless. They are living on their own without any limits on their sleep schedules, the foods they choose to eat and how much time they spend on activities such as video games or social media. 

A college lifestyle emphasizes socializing and partying which can lead to depression for young adults who feel socially isolated or who take risks without thinking about the consequences. Young adults struggle to find a balance between responsibilities and their social lives. 

Without their support system at home, students don’t know how to reach out for help. Other barriers to seeking help might be concerns over confidentiality, finances, and fear of not fitting in. 

How can I recognize college depression?

It can be difficult to identify signs that your college student is depressed over the phone. They may be more likely to bring up workload stress than a fear of failure or social rejection. They may talk about all of the fun things that they’ve done, which makes you overlook the way they sound when they describe their experience. Depression doesn’t necessarily refer to having bad experiences, but rather how present and engaged one is during the experiences that they do have. It is subtle rather than associated with a specific event.

Depression is a medical condition that can affect a student’s ability to work, study, interact with peers, or take care of themselves. Symptoms of depression may include: difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much, appetite changes, withdrawing from participating in activities once enjoyed, feelings of sadness, hopelessness, unhappiness, and difficulty concentrating on school work.

How can I help my child cope with depression during college?

As your child goes off to college, your role is to be more of a resource than a caretaker. You can help your child find motivation by encouraging them to:


  • Take things one step at a time
  • Practice self-care
  • Have fun
  • Reach out to you whenever they need to
  • Look for resources in the community



What if my child has already been depressed?

If your child has a history of symptoms of depression, make sure that they have support in place before going off to college, even if they are not currently depressed. The stress of the transition and a college lifestyle can trigger symptoms to reappear when they are not prepared. Choosing a smaller college or a community with more counseling resources can help your child find the support they need away from home. 

Transitional living programs, like Foundations Asheville, offer young adults the opportunity to take classes and work toward their academic goals while receiving additional academic support and counseling. We try to cultivate a family-like atmosphere in our community of therapists, mentors, and other young adults going through similar struggles to ensure that students have a support system while in college. 

Foundations Asheville Can Help

Foundations Asheville is a program for young adults ages 18-24 who are struggling to find the motivation to launch into adulthood. Many of our students struggle with anxiety, depression, social skills, and learning difficulties. This program is committed to helping young adults develop and sharpen the skills they need to be successful in the real world. There is a focus on teaching students how to enter the workforce, develop vocational trades, and functional living skills. Foundations Asheville gives young adults the opportunity to gain confidence, find their purpose, and learn useful skills that will help them navigate through the adult years.

 For more information on how to help your child struggling with college depression, call 18773187273. We can help your family today!

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