Understanding Depression

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College students are faced with a variety of challenges in their life on campus – independent living, meeting academic challenges, managing financial and economic issues, as well as balancing social and relationship obligations. One increasing challenge that college students face is understanding and dealing with depression. Depression is a serious concern, particularly among college students in today’s society. In a recent national survey of counseling center directors, almost 40 percent of the students coming to counseling were experiencing some form of depression. In the past four years, the Georgia Tech Counseling Center has seen an increase in the number of students seeking services for a variety of reasons. The number one concern is depression.

For students (and persons in general), “normal” depression can typically be a feeling of sadness or “feeling blue” that can be a normal reaction to an upsetting event such as the death of a family member or close friend, conflicts in relationships, poor performance on a test or in a class, or a reaction to multiple, stressful events. These situations can leave a person feeling helpless and sad. As a consequence, a student may experience some change in their appetite or sleep pattern and may also appear to be somewhat moody or irritable. In most cases however, students are able to recover and cope with the situation or concern directly related to their depressed mood and recover from their sadness.

In other cases, depression can be more complex and difficult for a student to deal with. In general, depression becomes a serious issue when the depression lasts for more than two weeks and significantly affects a student’s areas of daily functioning in a number of areas. The following is a guide on recognizing signs of depression in your son or daughter:

Academic Problems:

  • Not regularly attending classes
  • Repeatedly poor academic performance
  • Procrastination or loss of motivation
  • Lack of concentration in classes and on tests
  • Disruptive classroom behavior

Interpersonal Problems:

  • Disruptive behavior with others
  • Easily irritated with others
  • Avoiding or socially withdrawing from others
  • Complaints or concerns from friends, professors, or administrators
  • Inability to get along with others

Behavioral Problems:

  • Change in personal hygiene
  • Dramatic weight gain or loss
  • Significant change in sleep pattern (too much or lack of sleep)
  • Tearfulness
  • Unruly behavior
  • Thoughts of self harm

Once recognized, it is important to offer your student understanding and support. Ways to offer support might include:

  • Talking with your son or daughter directly to point out your observations;
  • Avoid making the promise to keep things confidential;
  • Listening carefully and responding to both the content and the emotion of the circumstance;
  • Expressing your concern in a non-judgmental, respectful manner;
  • Assisting in identifying options of action and possible consequences; and
  • Letting them know that you are willing to assist them in getting professional help.

There may be times when a student’s depression turns to thoughts of suicide or thoughts of harming others. In those cases, it is very important to seriously consider their thoughts and to facilitate getting them the help that they need right away, either through your local emergency hospital or clinic or by notifying and consulting with the Counseling Center and the Office of the Dean of Students.

The Counseling Center supports the personal and professional development of Georgia Tech students, the educational mission of the Institute and the Division of Student Affairs by providing short-term counseling, psychotherapy, educational programming, and consultation to the Georgia Tech community. The Center provides crisis and emergency services for students during regular office hours as well as after-hours and during the weekend.

The Counseling Center also works closely with psychiatrists in the Psychiatric Clinic to facilitate referrals for psychiatric evaluations and to follow-up as needed. In cases where longer-term counseling is needed, the Counseling Center maintains a comprehensive referral listing of community service providers for students who are in need of extended services or whose presenting concerns are beyond the scope of service at the Center.

For more information, parents are encouraged to view our parent video. To learn more about the Counseling Center and our services, please visit our website at


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  • Created By:
    Rachael Pocklington
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  • Modified By:
    Fletcher Moore
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