Depression at university

While clinical depression requires professional help from your GP, student counselling or Vetlife Health Support, there are some things which will help your mood if you feel able to do them – but don’t beat yourself up if you don’t feel well enough to:

  • Aerobic exercise will have immediate effects. See: Exercise
  • Spend time with friends. If you stay on your own, isolation can increase depressed and paranoid thoughts and feelings
  • Try to talk to someone about how you are feeling
  • Do not sit in front of your work for hours when you are unable to think clearly. Depression often affects concentration and short term memory. These will gradually improve as your depression lifts. In the meantime, just do what you can, at times when you feel able to study
  • Speak to your academic or personal tutor or another member of staff to let them know about your difficulties and to make arrangements about exams or coursework
  • Have a talk to your GP – persistent depression does respond to appropriate pharmaceutical intervention
  • Try to resist the temptation to blank things out, or manage sleep disturbance, by using alcohol, drugs or tobacco. These may provide temporary relief but they do not resolve the depression and they may make things worse
  • If you feel at risk of harming yourself, or if you are having ideas about suicide, speak to someone who can help you. Look at your university resources  or see our In a Crisis page for more information
  • If you feel you do not want to speak to someone within your vet school, you may wish to approach other members of the University community such as the chaplain or the Student Union Welfare Officer or  send an anonymous email to Vetlife Helpline (your email address will not be visible)
  • Have a chat with your University-based counselling service – admitting depression is not a sign of weakness
  • Did you have a hobby or a passion that you dropped when you came to University – think about getting involved with it again – the rewards of re-engaging with something that you used to find meaningful are a great antidote

Admitting depression is not a sign of weakness It’s just about learning new stuff – knowledge and skills.

Dr Adrian Longstaff, veterinary surgeon and psychotherapist

See also: Self Care and the Students against Depression website

Helping a Friend or Housemate

  • Depression can distort a person’s inner world into a nightmare of negative thoughts and feelings. As a friend, you can help by listening and by reminding them of reality. It is not helpful to imply that someone experiencing depression should pull himself or herself together as this is precisely what he or she cannot do
  • It can be difficult for someone with depression to ask for help as they often blame themselves for the way they are feeling. They may think they are being lazy or weak. Depression is a condition that responds to medical treatment. You can help by understanding this and helping your friend to understand this. If you can, encourage them to contact their GP, their university counselling service or Vetlife Health Support
  • People experiencing depression can be very difficult to be around. They may be irritable, frustrating and rejecting, particularly towards those closest to them. This may be a reflection of how hopeless, helpless and worthless they are feeling about themselves. Try not to be put off continuing your friendship by this behaviour.
  • Try to encourage them to keep up the activities they enjoyed prior to the depression, particularly exercise and social activities.
  • Do not encourage them to use alcohol or drugs to relax or forget their problems. These may bring temporary relief but they will not resolve the depression and may make it worse.
  • You need to take care of yourself and supporting a person with depression can be draining. Take time away or with other friends as well. If you are concerned about someone who is having problems then do not hesitate to contact one of the support services.
  • If your friend is talking about suicide, either directly or in vague terms, take it seriously and encourage them to see their GP. If this is not possible, speak to someone who can intervene. See the In a Crisis page of this website. If necessary, you can always take your friend to the Emergency Department of your local hospital.

People experiencing depression can be difficult to be around.

  • Don’t give up on them
  • And make sure you have adequate support for yourself