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It can be painful to watch a friend struggle with their mental health. Here are some common symptoms of depression to watch for and ways to support a friend or loved one who is struggling.

Signs of depression

1. Difficulty getting out of bed

It’s perfectly 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 or showering, can feel exhausting or difficult to do. 


2. Sleeping habits

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

Other times, sleep changes can 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 intensify 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 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, and other times they may come about completely 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 we find that we are no longer enjoying or finding pleasure in the things we used to enjoy, this can be a sign of depression. We may also isolate ourselves from close friends, family members or others who care about us, which can perpetuate the symptoms of depression.

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:

  • CU Boulder students can call Counseling and Psychiatric Services at 303-492-2277 to access 24/7 crisis support.
  • Anyone can call 988 to be connected with the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.**

**Depending on your area code, you may be redirected to local mental health service providers. Those with Colorado area codes will be redirected to Colorado Crisis Services, who may dispatch a Mobile Crisis Clinician for face-to-face interventions. If you are calling from out-of-state or have a non-local area code, face-to-face interventions may be conducted by law enforecement or medical response teams.

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 are there for them and care about 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. For instance, you could say something like: “I’ve noticed that you haven’t been acting like your normal self lately, and I’m worried about you. Is everything okay?”

Remain calm

It's normal to feel anxious when someone discloses that they're experiencing difficulties, but it's important to appear calm and confident so that the person doesn't then feel like they need to take care of us. It’s okay to seek support for yourself while offering support to others.

Listen without offering judgment or advice

Listen to your friend as they tell you about their experiences, emotions and difficulties. Avoid passing judgment or giving them advice about what they should do. Instead, focus on sitting with them and being there for them in the moment. Your job isn't to fix the situation but to help your friend feel heard and understood.

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 might be most 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 utilize 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. Keep in mind that CAPS can also provide support services for those looking to help their friends, including consultations and recommendations. 

Support resources

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

Mental health services

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.

Available to students

AcademicLiveCare

AcademicLiveCare is a telehealth platform that allows students to schedule and attend mental health appointments 24/7 from a smartphone, computer or other mobile device for free. Easily schedule virtual visits with licensed psychologists, counselors, psychiatrists, or other providers. AcademicLiveCare does not provide crisis or emergency care.

 Available to students

Let’s Talk

Let’s Talk is a free service that allows CU Boulder students to attend a free, 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.

 Available to students

Student mental health services

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

 Available to students

WellTrack

 

Health and Wellness Services has launched a new mental health app for students, staff and faculty! Download WellTrack to track your mood, practice skills and complete modules.

WellTrack is available on the App Store and Google Play. Sign in with your IdentiKey for free access.

 Available to students

Faculty and Staff Assistance Program (FSAP)

FSAP is committed to promoting the mental and emotional well-being of CU’s staff and faculty. They offer free consultations, brief individual therapy and workshops.

Available to staff and faculty

Anthem Gold Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP)

Students enrolled in the Anthem Gold Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP) from CU Boulder have access to comprehensive medical, mental health and prescription coverage, including 100% coverage for in-network mental health visits.

 Available to students

Employee mental health coverage

All CU employee health plans include a one free preventive mental health care visit per plan year for employees and covered dependents. Learn more about mental health benefits by visiting the HR Benefits page.

Available to staff and faculty

Student Support and Case Management (SSCM)

SSCM provides support for students throughout their time at CU Boulder. They are here to help students identify issues and appropriate resources. They also work collaboratively with students to develop an action plan.

 Available to students

Education and support

Kognito

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.

    Available to students, staff and faculty

Mental Health First Aid

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

    Available to students, staff and faculty

WellCU

CU Boulder students can sign up for our free WellCU program to learn about mental health and well-being. Topics include trauma response, suicide prevention, self-care and more. Students who complete all five modules will receive a non-degree certificate.

Available to students

Red Folder

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

Available to staff and faculty

Suicide prevention

Suicide is the second leading cause of death among college-aged students. Whether you or someone you know is having a hard time, it’s important to reach out or ask for help. Learn how to talk about suicide and help someone in need.

    Available to students, staff and faculty​

Supporting Student Resiliency

The Supporting Student Resiliency Professional Development Series provides CU faculty and staff with concrete skills to better support students. Sessions focus on areas critical to student retention and success. Faculty and staff can attend any individual session or attend all three sessions to receive a non-degree certificate.

Available to staff and faculty