Coping with Depression

We would always encourage students to think carefully what can be done to help themselves and to seek appropriate support. The school does not endorse the use of alcohol or drugs other than when legally obtained and responsibly used.

Typical recognised symptoms of depression include:

  • inability to experience pleasure- even from activities that once felt good
  • feeling worthless, hopeless or guilty
  • isolation from people and/or a desire to withdraw socially
  • chronic fatigue, low energy or feeling ‘flat’ much of the time
  • irritability and/or restlessness
  • indecisiveness and/or poor concentration
  • changes in sleeping and/or eating habits
  • increased use of alcohol and/or drugs to sleep, or to cope with daily living

In some cases, depressed feelings can become so intense that thoughts of hurting yourself or ending your life may appear to be the only option.

Why does someone become depressed?

Common reasons in a student population might be: loss of a person or significant relationship, leaving home, academic difficulties, parental or family conflict, worry or concern about the future (What do I want from life?), to name a few. Other environmental and biochemical factors may also play a role in depression. What should I do if I feel depressed? Take time first to consider why you might be feeling this way now. In some cases, feeling low is an appropriate reaction to difficult life events. Mild to moderate depression can be an expected, temporary response to serious emotional challenges. For example, following a bereavement, deep sadness or intense grief can resemble depression. If you think you might be feeling somewhat depressed but want to try self-help in the first instance, here are some ideas:

Build more structure into your day

Set small daily goals and stick to them.  Many students with low mood become more depressed when they have too much time on their hands.

Increase your level of physical activity

Walk, swim, jog, work out, etc. Get plenty of rest and sleep, but do not over do it.

Eat balanced nutritious meals

Cut down on processed and refined foods, alcohol, caffeine and nicotine.  Poor nutrition can lower mood and deplete your energy. Alcohol is a depressant, drinking will deepen depression.

Allow yourself to experience your feelings

If you need to cry, do so. If you are angry, find a safe way to express that anger a little at a time. Denying or blocking feelings may work in the short-term but can lead to greater emotional difficulties later on. Keeping a journal can be one way to experience the feelings as opposed to bottling them up.

Challenge any negative self-talk

Do you hear criticisms louder than compliments? Do you habitually put yourself down? Do you always assume the worst? Instead, use gentler language when you talk to yourself. Practice a little self-compassion. Things may not turn out as badly as you predict, so don’t focus only on the negative.

Develop a support system                                                                              
When feeling low or discouraged, you will need help and support from those who are positive, encouraging, and uplifting. Avoid people who are draining or who inflict damage on your sense of self and your self-esteem.

Seek professional help

If your mood does not improve, if you feel self-destructive or if depression is significantly interfering with daily life, speak to a responsible adult who may suggest making an appointment with your GP. An initial appointment with a member of the support centre can also offer the opportunity to explore any personal concerns in a supportive setting.

How can I help someone else who may be depressed?

The most important thing to remember is to remain supportive even though this can be a challenge at times. Blaming the person for their depression or trying to make them “snap out of it" can backfire and make things worse.

LISTEN to what is being said
Active listening does not require that you necessarily agree or disagree with your friend. The important part is that you accurately hear what the person is saying so he or she feels heard and understood.

Let the person know that you want to help and are willing to be a resource. It is important to express your thoughts and observations in a non-judgemental way. Keep an open mind about what might be going on.

Express any CONCERNS
Let your friend know if you are concerned for their safety or health, and that you have told them so because you care about their welfare.

For example, if you think your friend should seek counselling or medical help, let them know your honest opinion.  Provide information and offer to accompany them- but don’t force your recommendation on them.  Sometimes a person needs time to reflect or to pursue alternative options first.

Know your LIMITS                                                                                               
Don’t assume responsibility for ‘curing’ your friend’s depression or for providing a 24-hour crisis service. It is good to be supportive, but you also have your own life to lead. Don’t attempt to offer a level of help that gets you out of your depth.