Woman in yellow rain jacket standing with a clear umbrella in the rain.

Watching a friend struggle with their mental health can be painful. Here are common symptoms of depression as well as resources and ways to support a friend or loved one who is struggling.

1. Difficulty getting out of bed

It’s normal to enjoy sleeping in or spending time in bed. However, if it has become difficult to find the motivation to get out of bed or get ready in the morning, this could be a sign of depression. Depression can make us feel fatigued and physically drained to the point where even small tasks, like getting up in the morning, can feel exhausting or difficult to do. 

2. Sleeping habits

The physical and mental exhaustion that comes with depression may also affect our sleeping habits. Changes in sleep can show up in a number of ways. Sometimes this looks like sleeping throughout the day, using sleep as a way to pass the time or preferring sleep to other daily activities. 

Conversely, sleep changes can also create bouts of insomnia, which can make it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep at night. Missing out on quality, restful sleep can increase our anxiety levels and add to feelings of distress. Sometimes, this creates a cycle where our anxious thoughts keep us awake and negatively impact our sleep, which then leads to more anxious thoughts. 

3. Changes in appetite

Our appetite and eating habits can also be impacted by depression. Some people may experience an increased appetite, while others have less of an appetite or may not be hungry at all. If you are also noticing changes in your sleep habits, like the ones listed above, you may also notice changes in the way you eat. This is because sleep helps regulate our hunger hormones, which help to keep us from over- or undereating.

4. Persistent irritability or mood swings

Depression can cause us to experience outbursts and mood swings. One minute we’re angry, the next we’re crying uncontrollably or we shut down and go numb. Changes in our mood can switch in a moment’s notice. Sometimes these changes can be triggered by small or insignificant challenges, while other times they can come about unprovoked. If you notice a pattern of irritability or mood swings that last more than a few days, it may be linked to depression.

5. Difficulty experiencing joy or connection

When we’re depressed, it can take all of the enjoyment out of the things we love and make it more difficult for us to connect to those closest to us. We may begin to lose interest in hobbies, friendships, schoolwork, social activities, sex or life in general. When this happens, we may find ourselves feeling isolated from friends, family members or others who care about us.

How to help someone who may be experiencing depression

If you are currently experiencing one or more of these symptoms, it’s okay to seek support. If you are having thoughts of suicide, call 303-492-2277 to access 24/7 crisis support from Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS)

If you notice a roommate, friend or classmate experiencing any of these symptoms, here are a few things you can do to help:

  • Acknowledge their feelings. Oftentimes, if someone is depressed or thinking about suicide, they will disclose their thoughts and feelings to friends before seeking out resources. If someone expresses difficulties, acknowledge their feelings and let them know that you hear them.
  • Express concern. If someone shares their feelings with you or if you notice concerning behavior changes, let them know you’re worried about them. As an example, you could say, “I’ve noticed that you haven’t been acting like your normal self lately, and I’m worried about you. Is everything okay?”
  • Listen without judgment or advice. Listen to your friend as they tell you about their experiences or emotions. Avoid passing judgment or giving them advice about what they should do. Instead, focus on sitting with them and being there for them. 
  • Ask what would be helpful. It can be tempting to give advice to a friend who is struggling. However, it’s important to ask that person what they need or what would be helpful for them. This may look different for everyone. For instance, your friend may need help with cleaning their apartment or they may need someone to check on them occasionally. It’s also normal for people to not know exactly what they need. If that’s the case, set up another time to talk or check in with them later, so they have time to think about what could be helpful.
  • Share resources. If a friend is struggling, it’s important to know that you don’t have to carry that burden for them. Instead, let your friend know that there are resources available to help. Keep in mind that it is important to share resources without forcing the person to visit them. Allow your friend to choose how and when they access help. If your friend is comfortable with seeking out additional support, you can offer to help them connect with services on or off campus. For instance, you can offer to make a call to Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS) with them.

Campus resources

Mental health services

Emergency Services

If you or someone you know is experiencing a life-threatening emergency call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.

24/7 Crisis Support

Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS) provides 24/7 crisis support for students who need same-day crisis or urgent support. Please note: Crisis care should not be used for life-threatening emergencies.

Let’s Talk

Let’s Talk is a free service where CU Boulder students can check in for an informal and confidential consultation with a counselor in person or online. If you have non-urgent concerns you would like to speak to a counselor about, Let’s Talk is a great option to get connected and learn about additional resources.

General mental health services

CAPS provides mental health support for all CU Boulder students, including mental health screenings, brief individual therapy, group therapy, workshops and more.


SilverCloud is a free, self-paced tool that helps individuals identify and enhance strengths and skills, learn techniques to overcome and manage symptoms of low mood and depression and develop coping skills to combat anxiety and anxious thoughts. SilverCloud is free for all CU Boulder undergraduate and graduate students, staff and faculty.

Red Folder

Red Folder provides a quick reference guide to help staff and faculty recognize, respond to and refer students who are experiencing distress.

Education and support


Kognito is an online resource that can help you practice having challenging conversations with someone in distress. You’ll learn how to identify the warning signs of psychological distress and how to talk about it with that person. It also provides tools to help you build connections and assist someone in seeking help.

Mental Health Is...

There are many elements that contribute to our mental health and well-being. The Mental Health Is campaign allows you to explore different topics and activities related to mental health, practice valuable skills and learn about support resources available at CU Boulder.

Mental Health First Aid

CU Boulder offers free Mental Health First Aid training to students, staff and faculty. Sign up for this training to learn about risk factors and warning signs, engage in experiential activities and learn about evidence-supported treatment and self-help strategies.


CU Boulder students can sign up for a free WellCU certificate program to learn about mental health and well-being. Topics include trauma response, suicide prevention, self-care and more.


CU Boulder’s BeThe1To suicide prevention campaign provides additional information on how to talk about suicide and connect someone with the support resources they need.

Health and Wellness Programs

Health and Wellness Services has a variety of programs that run throughout the fall and spring semesters that support students, faculty and staff.