Relationships

The student ‘stereotype’ is that everyone is always out partying with loads of friends, but in reality many students will experience bouts of loneliness during their time at uni. It’s worth taking your time to build friendships with the right people for you…

Friends

Depression has a way in when people feel isolated, but being ‘friends’ with people for the wrong reasons, or feeling pressured into acting differently in order to fit in to a friendship group does not provide the kind of support that protects against depression either!

Especially in first few weeks, making friends can seem of life and death importance. Try not to succumb to all-or-nothing thinking, though – people continue to make friends and get to know people throughout uni. It’s useful to be friendly with your neighbours in halls, but you are likely to make your closer friendships by:

  • giving yourself time to meet a wide range of people
  • getting to know people in a bit more depth
  • making conscious choices about who you really get on with

If you take your time then uni can be the ideal place to break free from the peer pressures common in adolescence, and to build solid adult friendships for life.

Intimate relationships

Student life provides a convenient setting for meeting like-minded people and forming intimate relationships. Our human need for closeness offers a very powerful source of happiness, and a happy partnership can be one of the best protections from depression.

At the same time intimacy also creates vulnerability to deep hurt – from all the courage required for negotiating the start of a relationship, through the myriad potential hurts during a relationship, to the potentially deep loss experienced when a relationship ends. Setbacks in relationships can easily shake confidence, disrupt support networks and provide fodder for depressed thinking habits. The most important tip for successful negotiation of intimate relationships is to maintain your own sense of autonomy and identity separate from the relationship and to practise clear, assertive communication.

Losses

Grief experienced as a result of a loss or bereavement is a significant risk factor for depression. The natural grieving process includes many of the states and feelings also found in depression, and can therefore combine with other factors to reinforce a depression habit spiral. If you do experience a bereavement or other loss such as a pregnancy termination or the end of a relationship, then protect yourself from depression by making good use of your support networks and paying extra attention to self-care.