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Identify if your student is stressed or depressed

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Mental Wellness Center offers tips and new support group for parents of teens and young adults experiencing mental heath problems…

If your student is feeling overwhelmed by stress, he or she is not alone; it’s practically a fact of life on college campuses. A poll conducted by the Associated Press and MTV in 2009 reported that 85% of students say they experience stress on a daily basis. Some students actually thrive on certain amount of stress, but many find that increased pressure, stress and anxiety can wear them down. Many factors can contribute to the stress level, and it can cause changes in the body that can affect overall physical, mental, and emotional health.

Depression is more serious and long-lasting than stress, and requires a different kind of help. In a 2010 survey by the American College Health Association, 28% of college students reported feeling so depressed at some point they had trouble functioning, and 8% sought treatment for depression.

The good news is that depression is a highly treatable condition. However, it’s not something you can snap out of by yourself, so it’s important to get help.

How do you tell the difference between stress and depression? Both can affect people in similar ways, but there are key differences. Symptoms of depression can be much more intense. They last at least two weeks. Depression causes powerful mood changes, such as painful sadness and despair. Your student may feel exhausted and unable to act.

Common signs of stress and depression:

Common Signs of Stress  

  • Trouble sleeping
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Problems with memory
  • Problems concentrating
  • Change in eating habits
  • Feeling nervous or anxious
  • Feeling angry, irritable or easily frustrated
  • Feeling burned out from studying or schoolwork
  • Feeling that you can’t overcome difficulties in your life
  • Trouble functioning in class or in your personal life

Common Signs of Depression 

  • Withdrawing from other people
  • Feeling sad and hopeless
  • Lack of energy, enthusiasm and motivation
  • Trouble making decisions
  • Being restless, agitated and irritable
  • Eating more or less than usual
  • Sleeping more or less than usual
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Trouble with memory
  • Feeling bad about yourself or feeling guilty
  • Anger and rage
  • Feeling that you can’t overcome difficulties in your life
  • Trouble functioning in your class or in your personal life
  • Thoughts of suicide
Reducing Stress & Getting Help for Depression

If you believe your child is stressed out, there are many good ways to get relief. Here are some constructive choices to discuss with your student:

Make a plan. Figure out what is really causing the stress. Think of as many possible causes as you can, and write them down. Now brainstorm for solutions that will reduce the stress, and commit them to paper. A trusted friend, family member or school counselor may be able to offer some good ideas as well. Now choose a few solutions to start tackling the issues. If they are complicated, break them down in to manageable chunks. Then give your plan a try. If one particular solution doesn’t help, try another one. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. It’s all a part of the process.

Get the stress out. Remember to take breaks when you feel worried or stuck. Do something relaxing every day. Sing, dance, and laugh–anything to burn off the energy.

Take care of your body. A healthy body can help you manage stress. Get 7 to 9 hours of sleep, eat healthy food, stay hydrated and exercise regularly. Go easy on the caffeine. Shorting yourself on sleep, and especially pulling an all-nighter, robs you of energy and your ability to concentrate. A healthy diet improves your ability to learn. Don’t skip breakfast.

Don’t suffer in silence. Get support, whether from family, friends, your academic advisor, campus counseling center, or a trusted online community. A heart-to-heart talk with someone you trust can help you get rid of toxic feelings and may even give you a fresh perspective. If these steps don’t bring relief, or if you are still unable to cope and feel as if the stress is affecting how you function every day, it could be something more acute and chronic–like depression. Don’t let it go unchecked!

If you believe your child is experiencing depression, remember that depression and other mental health conditions are nothing to be ashamed of. Depression is not a sign of weakness, and seeking help is a sign of strength. Telling someone your student is struggling is the first step toward relief. Your child will need the help of a mental health professional to beat depression. Talk therapy, antidepressant medication or a combination can be very effective.

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New Support Group for Parents of Teens and Young Adults Experiencing Mental Health Problems

The Mental Wellness Center, a private, nonprofit organization providing recovery, education and family services to adults and families affected by mental illness, has established a new family support program for parents of teens and young adults (aged 16-26) who are experiencing mental health problems, to help parents navigate this challenging period and thrive as a family.

Whether your child is experiencing symptoms of depression, anxiety, or schizophrenia, the negative impacts of a mental illness are not limited to the young person; the entire family can be affected by stigma, isolation and feelings of despair.

The new peer-to-peer support group offers families of teens and young adults with early access to a safe and compassionate community, emotional support and information about available treatment. Parents can learn to manage their child’s needs without sacrificing their own, or the needs of the family, and discover that they are not alone and there is hope for bright future. VIEW DETAILS >>

September 22, 2015

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