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Son depressed and unhappy at uni

(6 Posts)
BatTheMat Thu 06-Mar-14 15:41:22

I posted this thread on the parenting site and they suggested I post it here. My son is 20 and in his first year at uni, 35 miles away. He is very depressed and lonely, but for the time being has decided to persevere, although I suggested he leaves. He feels that, in this his 2nd term / semester, he's put in so much work it would be a waste to give up - but I have said he could take a Leave of Absence and pick up in the future where he left off. He also feels that if he left, he'd be 'running away' and would hate himself for it.

His depression is really stressful for us at home, and when he comes home (which he does every weekend), his mood is rock-bottom. It gets worse as Monday morning approaches.

He is on medication (he switched recently and has just increased the dosage) and is almost recovered from a long battle with anorexia - but is managing to eat OK, thank goodness.

I just long for him to be happy. I am also finding week after week after week of dealing with the repercussions of his depression really difficult to cope with.


creamteas Thu 06-Mar-14 18:53:03

I'm really sorry to hear this.

First, it is not unusual for students to wobble a bit, it is a hard change for many students, let alone students with disabilities.

Next, can you get to the bottom of what is the issue? It is the subject choice? The living arrangements or university in general? Or that there is not the right support in place?

Assuming the latter, does the university know about his disability? If not, he will not be getting the support he needs, and you need to encourage him to let him know. Disability Units are used to supporting students with a wide range of mental health issues, and this should be the main route to sorting things out.

If he has disclosed, is your DS engaging with the university support services on offer? They do vary from uni to uni, but he should be able to get help and support from a personal tutor, counseling service as well as the disability support service.

Does he get disabled students allowance? If not, he should really apply and this can provide money to pay for extra support (eg learning mentor). If he is in receipt, is it working? If not, he can be reassessed in order to get a package of care that works.

My apologies if all this is in place but in my experience when things are not working for students with MH issues, it is often that the student is not explicit about what is going on and thus it is impossible for the university to get the support right.

Notsoskinnyminny Thu 06-Mar-14 19:23:44

DD is in her first year and a similar distance from home and had a horrendous first term (have a read of the empty nest threads). All I could do was be there whenever she phoned and she came home either midweek (when she has no lectures for 2 days) or weekends and sometimes both. I did suggest she left (she's an August baby and I wondered if some time to 'grow up' might help as she's very 'young' compared to her cousin who's only a month older) but she was adamant she'd stick it out as without a degree she can't get to where she wants to be so I just had to be there for her. It was bloody hard listening to her sob and not being able to do anything so I know exactly how you're feeling.

She's in private halls and decided she'd stay there again next year as the girls in her flat (who she doesn't really get on with) had been to look at a house without her but as one's decided to commute they asked her to take her 'room' - I can imagine her response grin She's the sort of person who'd rather be on her own than be friends with someone just for the sake of having a friend.

I'm not sure what happened over Christmas but her classmates (who up til then had been very cliquey) started to gel - not best mates but a chat is wonderful when she'd gone days without speaking to anyone before Christmas and a girl on her course, who lives in the same block, asked if she'd like to live in their flat next year. Ironically she's now worried they might be too quiet - her current flat is like party central and she's not a drinker and very prudish not like her mother.

Its a horrible time for them and us but in the end I had to take a step back and let her make her own decisions. I did suggest she spoke to a counsellor but don't know if she did. I know she spoke to her course director and he's given her additional work to do which has helped because she was hating the slow pace of lectures.

Sorry I haven't got any constructive advice but wanted you to know that both of you are not alone thanks

lionheart Thu 06-Mar-14 19:40:20

Sorry to hear this. Do you know what kind of support he is receiving at College and whether he has a proper network in place to help him? It should include his personal tutor, the university medical centre, counselling services but also the support services for students with additional needs (disabilities, mental health, chronic illness). He should, if he hasn't done so, get in touch with them - have a look on the web site to see who they are and what they offer.

Many, many students need additional support and some will take a leave of absence. He can talk this through with them.

chemenger Fri 07-Mar-14 08:22:21

I would echo what creamteas says, it is vital that he gets the support of the disability service at his university. Only they can put in place the arrangements to vary assessments etc, as well as putting support mechanisms in place (this is true where I am but I expect it to be similar in most places). They will be very experienced in helping students with mental health problems, whereas the teaching staff and departmental support staff will be less adept and will have fewer resources and options for support open to them.

mrsrhodgilbert Fri 07-Mar-14 15:14:46

I can't offer any help I'm afraid but can sympathise. My dd is also in year one, not too far from home and has had a thoroughly miserable time so far. I wouldn't say she is depressed in a way that needs medicating but she is incredibly sad, lonely, miserable and disappointed with the whole experience. She has also lost a lot of weight and whilst not being anorexic, is certainly controlling what she eats quite rigidly.

We have a never ending stream of sad phone calls which are very hard to deal with. She has considered leaving and has decided to commute from home for year two instead. It's very difficult when things don't work out as they imagine. She has spoken to the counselling team, but they were no help. We are now counting down the weeks until the end of year one. It makes me anxious for dd2 who will go next year.

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