The Student who may be Depressed or Overly Anxious
Your responsibilities are not to diagnose or provide therapy; it is the development of a compassionate and forthright conversation that ultimately helps a student in trouble find understanding, support, and the proper therapeutic resources.
Facts about depression:
Depression is a common mental health problem that varies in severity and duration.
In its less serious form, depression is a temporary reaction to loss, stress, or life challenges. It can be alleviated through the passage of time and/or the natural healing effects of warm supportive social relationships, daily routines, and simple coping strategies like distraction, a structured daily schedule, and exercise. Moderate to severe or chronic depression requires professional help.
Symptoms of depression may include:
- Feelings of emptiness, hopelessness, helplessness, and worthlessness
- A deep and profound sense of sadness
- An inability to experience pleasure
- Irregular eating and sleeping
- Difficulties with concentration, memory, and decision-making
- Fatigue and social withdrawal
Facts about anxiety:
Anxiety can be generalized across a range of situations, or it may be situation-specific
(e.g., test anxiety, social anxiety, and public speaking anxiety).
Symptoms of anxiety may include:
- Irrational fears (losing control, phobias, fear of dying or falling apart)
- Excessive worry (ruminations and obsessions)
- Problems with sleeping or eating
- Substance use
Sometimes depression includes irritation, anxiety, and anger (particularly in men). In its most serious form, depression can be accompanied by self-destructive and/or suicidal thoughts and intentions as a way to escape from the emotional pain.
Research shows, again and again, that depression and anxiety can be highly responsive to both psychotherapy and medication.
Keep in mind:
- Talk to the student in a relevantly private location. You may wish to have another University employee present or within visual or auditory range in case the student's behavior becomes erratic.
- Listen carefully and acknowledge the student's feelings and experiences.
- Be supportive and express your concern about the situation
- Consider having the student immediately call for a counseling appointment
- Remain calm and take the lead in a soothing manner
- Express hope
- Focus on relevant information, speaking concretely and concisely.
- If appropriate, consider flexible arrangements (e.g., extension on a paper or exam), only if appropriate and without violating your academic integrity, as a way to alleviate stress and instill hope.
- If student alludes to having thoughts of suicide (See suicide section), do not leave the student alone. Call the Counseling Center immediately (904) 620-2602, and when possible, walk the student over to the Counseling Center.
- If it is after 4:30 p.m., or on the weekend, contact the UNF Police Department at (904) 620-2800.
- Afterwards, make notes of this meeting given the possibility of any future interaction.