Depression at College

It’s normal to have the blues – to feel down or even hopeless from time to time. But when traumatic events trigger serious depression, the best thing you can do for yourself is to seek help.

Symptoms of Depression

Physical
  • Difficulty sleeping / desire to sleep more than usual
  • Changes in eating patterns
  • Fatigue, loss of energy
  • Headaches, nausea, unexplained aches and pains
Behavioural
  • Lack of interest in previously enjoyable activities
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Lack of motivation
  • Neglect of responsibilities and personal appearance
Emotional
  • Feeling down, apathetic, irritable, pessimistic, hopeless, guilty, anxious
  • Struggling with suicidal thoughts
  • Feelings of worthlessness

If your feelings of sadness go on for weeks or months, you may need to seek assistance from a doctor or mental health professional, or from Red River College’s Counselling Services. A counsellor can help you take steps towards recovery by implementing the following strategies:

  • Carefully plan your day. Prioritizing tasks gives you a sense of control and accomplishment.
  • Plan your work and sleep schedules. Students often defer important homework until late at night, then wake up feeling exhausted. Constant fatigue can be a critical trigger for depression; seven or eight hours of sleep is recommended.
  • Seek support from other people. Friendships can put you at ease; sharing your feelings reduces isolation and helps you realize you’re not alone.
  • Relax. Try meditating, breathing deeply, exercising, or taking a warm bath or long walk – something enjoyable to reduce feelings of stress and discomfort.
  • Take time for yourself every day. Devote time to yourself, even if it’s only for 15 minutes. Doing so can boost energy, giving you a feeling of purpose and control over your life.

Are you Feeling Suicidal?

Suicidal feelings aren’t a sign you’re a bad person – or weak or crazy or flawed in any way. They may not even mean you really want to die, only that you have more pain than you can cope with right now.

If you’ve thought of causing harm to yourself, call RRC’s Counselling Services or come to our offices immediately. You can also contact the 24-hour off-campus resources listed below, or go to the nearest hospital emergency room.

RRC Counselling Services

D102-Notre Dame Campus
Phone: 204.632.2121

P210-Exchange District Campus
Phone: 204.949.8375

For 24-hour off-campus Emergency Services contact:

Klinic Suicide Crisis Line: 204.786.8686
Mobile Crisis Services: 204.940.1781

Helping Someone Who’s Depressed

It’s difficult when a friend or loved one is depressed – you want to help, but often don’t know how to make a difference. It’s important to realize there’s no magic solution for curing depression, and more importantly, that your friend’s depression isn’t your fault.

Though you may be tempted to give advice or try taking charge of your friend’s feelings, the most effective thing you can do is simply to listen.

  • Be supportive. Don’t deny or minimize your friend’s pain, or make judgmental comments about their feelings.
  • Show that you care. Stay in touch and stay interested.
  • Be honest. If your friend’s behaviour frightens you, say so. Reassure your friend their feelings are temporary, and their depression is treatable.
  • Know when to back off. If your friend appears unreceptive to help, call a time out – you may find that short, periodic discussions work best.

Don’t be afraid to show concern if your friend exhibits symptoms of serious depression. Ask questions that encourage frankness, and keep an open mind.

Helping a Friend Who May be Suicidal

Everyone feels sad, depressed, or angry sometimes – especially when the pressures of college, relationships, family or finances become too much to handle. Sometimes, feelings of hopelessness and sadness persist – leading to prolonged periods of depression and suicidal thoughts.

How Do You Know if a Friend is “Really” Suicidal?

Suicidal behaviour is hard to predict, and there’s no foolproof checklist for identifying it in others. That’s why talk of suicide – or an actual attempt – should always be taken seriously.

Warning Signs of a Suicidal Attempt
  • Symptoms of serious depression (as stated above)
  • Increased drug or alcohol use; high-risk behaviour such as fighting or reckless driving
  • Suicidal preparations (e.g. buying a gun, stocking up on sleeping pills)
  • Divestment of possessions
  • Statements indicating a desire to get even with others, or make others feel “sorry”
  • Discussions of suicide, the hereafter and/or wills and legal matters related to death

It’s normal to feel shocked and alarmed when a friend talks openly about suicide, especially if they use phrases like, “I wish I was dead” or “It’s time for me to end it” or “There’s no point to living anymore.” You want to help – but how? What can you do?

  • Explain to your friend you’re concerned about their situation. Often, people are willing to discuss suicidal feelings with those who show care or concern.
  • Listen without judgment and offer reassurance that you care. If you think your friend is in immediate danger, stay close.
  • Determine whether your friend has a specific plan in mind, and get them professional help immediately. Contact RRC’s Counselling Services or the 24-hour Suicide Prevention Hotline in Winnipeg (see below).
  • Get your friend to agree he/she won’t follow through on their plans while you’re attempting to secure help.

DO NOT:

  • Assume the situation will take care of itself.
  • Leave your friend alone.
  • Allow yourself to be sworn to secrecy.
  • Act shocked or surprised at what your friend says.
  • Challenge, dare or use verbal shock treatments.
  • Argue or debate moral issues.

To contact RRC’s Counselling Services, call 204.632.3966 (Notre Dame Campus) or 204.949.8375 (Exchange District Campus), visit D102 (NDC) or P210 (EDC). Alert front desk staff if you’re dealing with an emergency situation.

For 24-hour off-campus Emergency Services contact:

Klinic Suicide Crisis Line: 204.786.8686
Mobile Crisis Services: 204.940.1781