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Son terribly depressed at university

(24 Posts)
BatTheMat Wed 05-Mar-14 16:41:37

It's now the 2nd semester of his first year and he is really, really struggling with depression and loneliness. He is on meds from the GP and has been seeing a counseller (but didn't want to see her any longer). He is coming home every weekend to see his friends, yet finds it impossible to make friends at uni, despite attempting a whole range of activities, most of which he hasn't enjoyed. He is so very depressed and I'm finding it really hard to deal with knowing he's going through hell 35 miles away at uni. I have suggested he takes a year's Leave of Absence on medical grounds (depression), but he says he doeesn't know what to do. Help!!

LastingLight Wed 05-Mar-14 16:46:00

How long has he been on the meds? They can take several weeks before you get the full benefit, and for some people the first ad they try doesn't help and they need to try something else. If he has been taking the pills for a while and they're not helping then he must go back to his GP. Why does he not want to see the counselor any more? It's hard to make friends when you're depressed because you feel that nobody will like you anyway and project that. I feel for your son and for you, sorry that I don't have much advice, here's a hand to hold. He is lucky to have such a caring and understanding mum.

3littlefrogs Wed 05-Mar-14 16:51:39

Does he really want to be there?
Is he happy with his chosen course?
University isn't for everyone.

Ds1 dropped out of university. He was bored rigid. He works (very successfully) for himself now and earns a lot more than I do.

Some kids feel pressurised into going to university because it seems to be the "done thing" now.

anthropology Wed 05-Mar-14 17:03:16

It's difficult when they are over 18, as you cant be involved in their care as easily and its difficult to meet the threshold for adult therapy services, . Under 18s can only be prescribed meds by a psychiatrist alongside talking therapies from trained therapists. If meds are GP prescribed, and he is seeing a counsellor attached to the university rather than a trained psychotherapist, I dont know I would feel confident he had the best support away from home ? Its important for him, and you to understand how severe his depression is and how it is affecting him to be able to make these big decisions. If he went straight to uni, taking some time out, changing course or uni, is quite common, and wont affect his future. Seeing a therapist rather than a counsellor and being prescribed medication by an experienced psychiatrist,might be easier at home in the shorter term, if you think things are getting harder. all these medications, in my experience, are quite powerful, and need careful monitoring. Withdrawal is particularly hard. Young people who are depressed really do need someone to care about them(as you obviously do) as they may find it hard to care for themselves. It sounds positive he is seeing friends at home though and talking to you about it and hopefully he understands he is not alone, and many of our kids, have tough times, but with the right support and help, things do get much better for most, best of luck.

yourlittlesecret Wed 05-Mar-14 22:47:19

I know how hard it is when they are 18 and the world views them as an adult.
OP try posting on Higher Education.
Lots of people on there with DC at university and maybe some experience?

Mrswellyboot Wed 05-Mar-14 22:53:24

This is such a pity for your son. Yes he is lucky to have a mum like you smile

My only words are that I found second year a lot harder. The buzz had gone and I did get depressed for a while but once I started third year and the sense of achievement ahead, it made a huge difference and I ended up so happy. I would be tempted to encourage him to stay but come home each weekend, as he is already doing. Another year added on would be hard.

Just another thing, is he in the right accommodation.?

BatTheMat Thu 06-Mar-14 15:34:45

Thank you for your replies. He changed meds about 6 months ago and has just increased the dosage. He took a year out before going to uni (because he was recovering from an eating disorder). We have explored a transfer to our local uni, but they won't offer him a place as his grades aren't high enough. We have also explored moving accommodation, but he says he'd prefer to stay where he is, even though his flat-mates are pretty awful. At the moment he is adamant that he wants to continue at uni although I, personally, feel he would be better leaving, or at least taking a leave of absence for a while.

TippiShagpile Thu 06-Mar-14 15:36:32

Could he commute to uni every day and live at home? Depending on your transport links 35 miles might be achievable as a commute for him?

JeanSeberg Thu 06-Mar-14 15:37:31

At 35 miles away could he live at home and commute? Can he drive?

Chopchopbusybusy Thu 06-Mar-14 15:43:58

Does he like the course? Is he sharing with people from the same course? And does he have accommodation sorted for next year?
I'm guessing he does enjoy the course if he is insisting he wants to stay. It's so hard when they are at this stage. Obviously he's an adult now but my DD1 is at the same stage in her life and I know I want to give her any help she needs.
Is there a student welfare department he could speak to?

Educatingme Thu 06-Mar-14 15:50:58

Hmmm. This is not just someone who is taking a while to settle in. This is someone who needs a professional service to support him at Uni. My first step would be to go to see the disability office, because depression of that scope would probably qualify him to be on their radar.

I ran the disability office for a Uni and for students with anorexia and significant depression we would offer a structured package of medical support (regular weigh ins with the nurse, sent home if you dip) and strong liaison with our local mental health trust, with access to consultant care locally, the option of some in-patient time, CBT rather than standard student counselling, a mentor, etc.

He could also consider a part-time study option.

Mrswellyboot Thu 06-Mar-14 15:57:17

I would change the accommodation, it makes a huge difference to have a few supportive friends.

I know this is not the overall solution though. The poor lad. There should be someone with expertise along.

anthropology Thu 06-Mar-14 21:12:29

educating me. Its really encouraging to read your post. My DD is about to go to uni and with her history, we are being upfront now and putting measures in place, as she has a significant history of depression and will need to transfer to local therapist etc, putting contingencies in place. Bat the Mat, this suggestion seems like a good approach, especially with his history, so you feel confident he is being monitored.

Educatingme Fri 07-Mar-14 09:08:42

Anthro good, I am glad she is being upfront because TBH it is terribly difficult to support someone vulnerable if you don't have the full picture and/or if you can't tell the (few) people who need to know.

She won't be the only one by any means, I hope it all goes well.

Educatingme Fri 07-Mar-14 09:10:58

OP, for what it's worth, a Uni with a good reputation for supporting disabled students and which is not a high-tariff institution is Plymouth.

sisyphusisalive Fri 07-Mar-14 09:57:32

I am in a similar position. ds is in London. I am going up by train today to meet him after his lecture and we are going to see his GP together. He doesn't feel able to tell her the whole picture but has agreed to let me speak on his behalf.

Not looking forward to it as I know the attention will quite possibly trigger a meltdown but unless he tells someone, he won't ever be able to come through it. I just want her to tell me how I can best help him.

Would you consider something similar?

I would recommend a look on the HE board. As yourlittelsecret says, there are several posts on there from parents in similar situations. I have found them very helpful

itiswhatitiswhatitis Fri 07-Mar-14 10:04:19

Is 35 miles commutable do you think? Could he move home?

I lived at home whilst at uni, living away isn't for everyone.

sisyphusisalive Fri 07-Mar-14 10:49:39

Its not the distance you have to consider its the journey time. 35 miles from London by train could be 30 mins - easily doable. 35 miles in the wilds of Wales by train can take in excess of 2 hours. It would certainly be an option to consider if its less than/up to an hour.

NotMushroom Fri 07-Mar-14 10:56:34

sad Poor chap. Is he homesick? I would also suggest commuting from home for a while and see if he feels a little happier.

iseenodust Fri 07-Mar-14 11:13:22

I would talk to him about the high statistics on people who leave/are asked to leave Uni courses for a variety of reasons and point out it is nothing to be ashamed of and work hard to get him home. He has friends at home and support from you.

My nephew recently left Uni at the end of yr1 and got an apprenticeship in admin. His employer is now funding him to do an Open Uni degree. I left Uni at the end of yr1 and through work & acquired experience got accepted on to a decent masters course in my mid-30's without a first degree. There are choices.

itiswhatitiswhatitis Fri 07-Mar-14 11:23:44

Does he drive? The cost of lessons and running a car would be less than funding student accomadation

Beastofburden Fri 07-Mar-14 13:23:50

itis except he wouldnt get as much student loan funding if he lives at home.

ProfessorDent Fri 07-Mar-14 13:52:45

Oh, uni can be very depressing, made all the worse by having others whooping it up, living the dream. It's a bit like going to a party and not enjoying it, while others are - you feel worse than if you'd stayed at home.

There is not a wide mix of people to be with, they are all young. Some love this and ride the crest of the wave, but it felt very truncated to me, very narrow, not helped by the public school mix and having lots of young people a bit messed up by a very intense academic upbringing (not saying I wasn't it, but uni offers no escape from it). I tended to enjoy doing temping work in the summer hols more than uni itself. I just felt like I saw through everyone and everything at uni.

Then you have stuff like, when the summer arrives and the sun comes out, it's not uni any more. It is only in unseasonable months.

Also, it's harder on blokes imo when they hit this age as all progress stops. Until now you have a full programme at school laid on, you get older, shoe size goes up, pubic hair, you can legally smoke, drink, vote have sex and so on. Come the age of 20, everything grind to a halt unless you have put into place specific plans to ensure progress and excitement in life.

No one likes to admit to hating uni cos it's so enclosed. I never really met anyone who wasn't a student when I was there, and since I left I never met any students either. So saying you hate student life is a bit like saying you hate life itself, as one is wrapped up with the other.

Your son has my every sympathy, as it is very hard to quit and throw away a 'winning hand'. He has been told one thing and is experiencing another.

DandyDan Mon 10-Mar-14 19:47:10

I sympathise. My daughter's first year - she loved her course, liked the location, but had a total nightmare with her flatmates (partying nonstop all year, noisy all night most nights of the week, drugs and smoking 24/7, filthy kitchen, using up her food and utensils etc). She wasn't depressed but she was severely stressed for the entire year and found weekends very very hard.

In her second year, she loves her course, the place, the studying and work, and gets on okay with her housemates but hardly sees them as they take different courses and hers is very light on contact time. So she is isolated and lonely most of the week - can spend four days in a row, just in her room or the library reading and working but not talking to anyone. The friends she does have on her course live quite a way away from her, or turn up for lectures and go home to their parents for five days at a stretch.

As we do with our daughter, I would encourage your son to come home at weekends and draw some positivity from his freinds at home. The weeks become more manageable then. I would also do as much FB-chat/Skype etc as possible, just to give him points of contact throughout the day. And also encourage him to check in with the Student Support service if he chooses not to continue with seeing a counsellor. Some university terms are very short so encourage him that soon his first year will be over, and there will be a good stretch of being at home. Presumably he has already had to sign up for a student house next year with some friends?

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