We all go through ups and downs in our mood. Sadness is a normal reaction to life’s struggles, setbacks, and disappointments. Many people use the word “depression” to explain these kinds of feelings, but clinical depression is much more than just sadness. Depression is different from normal sadness in that it engulfs a person’s day-to-day life, interfering with the ability to study, work, eat, sleep, and have fun. The feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and worthlessness are intense and unrelenting, with little, if any, relief. Some depressed students experience agitation, anxiety, and intense anger. The student may begin to show inconsistent class attendance or stop going out with their friends or roommates. Some students have recurrent thoughts of destruction and are preoccupied with death. Some desire to escape the pain through suicide. Fortunately, depression responds to treatment, with eighty to ninety percent of those treated showing improvement.
Many, if not most, students will experience reactive or situational depression at some point in their academic careers. It is a natural emotional and a physical response to the academic demands and challenges as well as life’s ups and downs. Depression is considered more severe when it interferes with the student’s ability to function in school, in social environments, or at work. Without treatment, depression can last weeks, months or years.
When you observe a depressed student:
Resources at UVM
With MyWellbeing, students can:
National Institute of Mental Health
The federal government's public education campaign to raise awareness about depression and encourage depressed people to seek help. Provides free brochures and materials in English and Spanish.
Depression & Bipolar Support Alliance
A national membership organization representing and coordinated by people with depressive and manic-depressive illness. Offers patient support groups, advocacy, and educational brochures.
Depression & Related Affective Disorders Association (DRADA), 888-288-1104.
Provides education and information about affective disorders and assists support groups of individuals with affective disorders and family members.
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 2107 Wilson Blvd., Ste. 300, Arlington, VA 22201. (703) 524-7600 or (800) 950-6264.
A support and advocacy organization whose members are relatives of people with serious mental illness. Affiliates offer family support self-help groups and educational materials nationwide.
National Mental Health Association. 2000 N. Beauregard St., Alexandria, VA 22331. (800) 969-6642
The nation's oldest and largest volunteer mental health organization. Offers patient/family support services, depression information materials, and community outreach programs.