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Ages & Stages

Taking Care of Your Mental Health at College

Starting college can be stressful. You may be away from home for the first time. Maybe you miss your family and friends. And it may take you time to adjust to new surroundings, new teachers, and new friends. All these things can make you feel alone, overworked, and stressed out. The following is information concerning your mental health. 

Making friends

Friends usually become your main support system while in college. In fact, college friends often become close friends for life. 

You may be worried about how you will make new friends. You will probably meet some people you like in the first few days of school, and you will meet more in your classes, in clubs or sports, and through other friends. If it takes a while to find people you click with, don't worry; it will happen. 

A word on roommates:

Roommates can be terrific friends or great sources of stress. Even roommates who like each other will clash over things like cleaning, bedtimes, and music. Talk these things over early on and you will be less likely to have problems later. If you and your roommate just can't get along, talk with your resident advisor (RA) about how to handle your roommate problem. 

Missing home

Many students miss home—even those who've been away from home before. Feeling homesick doesn't make you less mature or mean that you are not ready to be on your own; it just means you are human! Here are a few tips that may help:

  • Talk with your friends about it. Chances are they're feeling the same way.
  • Keep in touch with family and friends back home, but make sure you develop new relationships at school.
  • Still having trouble? Try talking with a counselor.

Why going home for visits may be hard:

You've changed. Your family has changed. Even your home friends may have changed. Old conflicts don't disappear and new ones may come up. Again, if things are too stressful for you to handle alone, talk with a counselor. 

Dealing with depression

There will be days when you feel down, when the pressures of college life really get to you. Those feelings are normal. When you feel down, take some time out for yourself and do something that makes you feel good. Spend time with friends. Exercise. Read a good book. 

Sometimes, though, feeling down can turn into depression. Depression is a serious illness that can be treated.

If you have had any of the following symptoms for 2 weeks or more, see a counselor right away: 

  • Sad mood
  • Hopeless, helpless, worthless, or guilty feelings
  • Loss of pleasure in things you usually enjoy
  • Sleep problems
  • Eating problems
  • Low energy, extreme tiredness, lack of concentration
  • Physical symptoms such as headaches, stomachaches, or body aches that do not respond to treatment

If at any time you have thoughts of death or suicide, seek help immediately. Do not think you can handle depression on your own. If one of your friends seems depressed, suggest that he or she see a counselor as soon as possible. 

Try telehealth

If you’re still seeing your pediatrician or family physician back home, contact them to see if they offer telehealth visits​. If they’re in a different state or you’re no longer seeing them, call to ask if they can recommend a doctor near campus. You may be able to schedule a telehealth visit using a video or phone call from school. You can talk about what’s troubling you and learn about treatment options.

More information
Last Updated
Health Care for College Students (Copyright © 2007 American Academy of Pediatrics, Updated 4/07)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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