Experts weigh in on preventing, fighting depression during high - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Experts weigh in on preventing, fighting depression during high school-to-college transition

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MADISON (WKOW) -- The recent decision of a high-profile UW football recruit to red shirt the upcoming season this fall has brought attention to the stresses that the transition to college life can bring.

It was first reported by the Wisconsin State Journal that Monona Grove's Jaden Gault would take a break from the Badger football team.

Dr. Jack Nitschke, an associate professor of psychology and psychiatry at the UW, said most incoming freshmen have an uneventful transition to college life.

But Nitschke said there is a "subset" of students that "really do struggle" to adjust to their new surroundings. Nitschke said those students could find it hard to make friends or to maintain the academic standards they grew accustomed to in high school.

He also said freshmen can find it stressful being tasked with making all of their personal decisions on their own.

"You're now living in your own dormitory, or for some it's an apartment," Nitschke said. "So being able to make choices day in and day out regarding what it is they're going to do each day, when they're going to bed or when they're going to do their work. There are a lot of these responsibilities that, really, kids are being faced with for the very first time."

Nitschke said those stresses can often cause students to slip into depression.

Psychotherapist Becky Cherkasky said that depression can also be caused by fear.

"It's fear of failing," she said. "Fear of disappointing themselves and their families."

Cherkasky said students struggling with depression can exhibit a number of symptoms.

"Things like a loss of interest in things you used to be interested in, or changing your eating habits -- whether it's eating more or less," can by symptoms of depression, Cherkasky said.

"Same thing with sleep, sleeping more or less," she said, "and just a general feeling of sadness." Cherkasky added a lack of self upkeep, or personal hygiene, is also indicative of depression.

She said those struggling with depression should seek professional help. Nitschke said many college campuses often offer free, mental health services to students.

Nitschke said other ways students can combat depression are through exercise or staying involved on campus through clubs and organizations.

Cherkasky said it's also recommended to work one "fun" activity into your daily routine to help prevent depression. She said such activities can include anything from "laying in the grass, watching the clouds and listening to music" to spending more time with friends.
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