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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:

  • Stress
  • Panic
  • Procrastination
  • Avoidance
  • Irrational fears (losing control, phobias, fear of dying or falling apart)
  • Excessive worry (ruminations and obsessions)
  • Problems with sleeping or eating
  • Depression
  • 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.