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Depression and study abroad?

EmmycatEmmycat 103 replies15 threads Junior Member
Hi all - My D is a sophomore who is considering studying abroad in Australia next semester. She's applied and been accepted and has jumped through the hoops to get classes approved at her University, etc. Now she just has to decide whether she definitely wants to go. Her concern is that she has depression and, although she's been in treatment while at college, she still has dark times when she has difficulty motivating herself. She doesn't love her school and I think she's hoping that a new place will change things for her. But, she has difficulty making friends and has a tendency to isolate herself, so I'm worried about her possibly doing that while abroad and being miserable. Right now, she's about an hour from home, so if things get particularly bad, I can go take her to dinner or she can come home for the weekend.

I'm hopeful that being that far away in a large city and a large university might be what she needs to feel more independent and, hopefully, make friends and have a great experience. But, I wouldn't be able to jump on a plane if she struggles and that is scary.

I'd love to hear good/bad experiences from any of you with kids who studied abroad, but particularly stories of kids with depression/anxiety and how the experience went for them.

Thanks!

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Replies to: Depression and study abroad?

  • TS0104TS0104 921 replies26 threads Member
    Sent PM
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  • HarrietMWelschHarrietMWelsch 2528 replies31 threads Senior Member
    Sent you a PM.
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  • PublisherPublisher 8514 replies91 threads Senior Member
    edited October 22
    Wise move, in my opinion, especially if combined with a committment to daily exercise program.

    Did your daughter's depression begin in college ? If so, then a change of environment would be a great move--especially if just for one semester.

    Is your daughter at UGa or at Emory/Oxford ? I ask because I can understand feeling down in a small environment. In my opinion, large universities are much healthier environments than are small LAC type communities.


    P.S. Melbourne is supposedly the top destination in Australia.
    edited October 22
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  • PublisherPublisher 8514 replies91 threads Senior Member
    edited October 22
    Depends upon the cause of depression (if known) as well as when the feelings of depression began. (Often young adults feel depressed after a break-up. Probably not the case here, but we do not know. If so, a new environment should be helpful. Especially since it is just for a semester of 15 weeks. Once the excitement wears off, it will be time to go home,)

    If depression started in college, then spending a semester abroad may help.

    If depression is too severe, then OP should be seeking medical opinions rather than college counseling.

    Also, OP should ask about counseling services & medical services in the new location.
    edited October 22
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  • doschicosdoschicos 21421 replies223 threads Senior Member
    A lot of mental health issues start around the college years.


    Breaking up with a boyfriend and being depressed is situational depression. I get the sense that the OP is talking more about clinical depression.

    I agree with @roycroftmom that studying about could be a risky proposition. Study abroad is fraught with emotional ups and downs even for people not facing depression. For someone unhappy in their current environment, the thought of changing one's environment sounds like a promising idea and maybe it will turn out to be that, however, it is easy to glorify the experience ahead of time due to current unhappiness. Then, upon finding out that a new situation doesn't lead to more happiness, things cannot pan out well at all without the usual support and safety nets and distance from loved ones.
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  • MaineLonghornMaineLonghorn 38771 replies2127 threads Super Moderator
    I agree that it could be risky.

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  • momofsenior1momofsenior1 7614 replies61 threads Senior Member
    I have two friends with daughters with diagnosed clinical depression who are going abroad. Both have arrangements to skype with their counselors at home and both sets of parents are planning visits.

    That said, both young women have been battling depression since middle school so it's not a new diagnosis and they have long term history with their counselors and their medications.

    If this is a newer diagnosis, I would talk to a professional for their opinion.
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  • PublisherPublisher 8514 replies91 threads Senior Member
    edited October 22
    OP has left us guessing. Do we even know whether any medication is involved ?

    I do not read this situation as being severe depression. If it is, then the daughter needs treatment & comfort near her support group.

    Also, as a male, I suspect that I view depression differently than a mother might.
    edited October 22
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  • EmmycatEmmycat 103 replies15 threads Junior Member
    Thanks so much for the responses, all - especially those of you who pm'd me. I really appreciate it! To answer your questions, my D has been seeing a therapist for several years now, but in high school it was more anxiety. It became depression spring semester of her freshman year at college and she began medication this past summer which seems to be working well. She has been seeing a counselor at her college who is, according to her, supportive of the study abroad idea. This counselor is new this year - she saw a different one last year - and, although she likes her, I don't get the impression that my D has a particularly strong connection to this counselor that she'd miss.

    I don't know how severe the depression is - she is a kid who keeps a lot inside so it may be worse than I know. She has great grades and is participating in lots of things at her college, so it isn't stopping her from doing what she needs to do so far. It has, I think, prevented her from making the friends and social connections she hoped for, though.

    I agree that we will need to make sure she has access to counseling services and medication if she goes abroad and we've talked to her about that. I've also talked to the program about it and it appears they do a good job of getting students set up with counseling services within the hosting university.

    We're trying to weigh the benefit of a change of scenery and visiting somewhere she's always wanted to see with the downside of lack of comfort, familiarity, and her safety net. It sounds to me like many of you think it depends on the severity of her depression and how well-controlled it is with medication/counseling. I really appreciate your thoughts and experiences and will discuss it with her more over the next few days.

    Thank you so much for your thoughts and sharing your experiences.
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  • MaterSMaterS 1821 replies51 threads Senior Member
    Even if depression hasn't been diagnosed I would hesitate to send a child far north in fall semester or far south in the spring semester. I want the daylight time to be increasing during the term.
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  • roycroftmomroycroftmom 3061 replies39 threads Senior Member
    Is your daughter likely to take the initiative to locate and use the available counseling resources in a new foreign environment if she needs them? Will you mail to her the medication refills throughout the semester if she can't take sufficient with her, and can that be done in a timely manner? What's her plan to make friends in a different locale? She may have good answers but just things to consider.
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  • doschicosdoschicos 21421 replies223 threads Senior Member
    it's great that the program is aware and seems responsive, supportive and experienced with this sort of thing.
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  • roycroftmomroycroftmom 3061 replies39 threads Senior Member
    Maybe, @doschicos. Or maybe the study abroad program is profit making and trying to get as many students as possible. I am rather wary of programs that claim it will all be fine without a full understanding of the nature of the specific illness.
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  • PublisherPublisher 8514 replies91 threads Senior Member
    @Emmycat : If your daughter does take a semester in Melbourne, Australia, it might be wise to have your passport ready.

    The fact that you & your daughter have spent months planning this semester abroad suggests that her depression may not be severe. I wonder if you may be having a last minute moment of worry as this signifies that your daughter is becoming an independant adult.

    This may be one of the best experiences of her young life.
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  • doschicosdoschicos 21421 replies223 threads Senior Member
    Let's take the OP's concerns at face value and not read something into it that isn't presented.
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  • PublisherPublisher 8514 replies91 threads Senior Member
    edited October 22
    I have reread the initial post several times. Seems more like last minute worries than any real crisis.
    edited October 22
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  • itsgettingreal17itsgettingreal17 4047 replies26 threads Senior Member
    My D has been on a number of study abroad programs so far for varying lengths up to a full semester.
    Can your D do a short term one first before a full semester? All of the programs my D did counseled against those with depression participating.
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  • gardenstategalgardenstategal 5855 replies10 threads Senior Member
    If your d's therapist thinks she can handle it, I'd let her go. And I'd go through the whole checklist of things you should have in order (like the one in The Stressed Years of their Lives), get your passport current (just in case), and make sure you and your D plan to Facetime at regular intervals so you can be in touch (and she won't have to be the one making additional effort if there's an issue.)

    I'd be more worried if she were going somewhere with a far greater culture gap where she could feel more isolated, have more challenges with the medical community, etc. Not to say that I wouldn't have the concerns you fo, but it sounds like this plan addresses them as well as can be.
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  • LindagafLindagaf 9382 replies502 threads Senior Member
    I agree with @gardenstategal above. Yes, the country is far away, but the culture is not so dramatically different and she won’t be as likely to feel out of her element as if she to went to, say, Japan.

    @Publisher , I disagree 100% that large universities are healthier environments than small LACs. What’s the basis for that claim? There are depressed kids at large schools too, perhaps even more so than a small school. At large schools, it can be easy for a student to feel anonymous and the counseling centers can be overwhelmed. Large schools can often have a pervasive drinking culture, Greek Life, tailgating, and little else, that makes kids feel excluded if they don’t partake. Large schools often have unhealthy dining options, classes with large lecture halls where kids are taught by TAs and never interact with mature adults, etc....

    There is plenty about large schools that is unhealthy. And there are probably things about small LACs that are unhealthy, but I’ll take the small LAC over the anonymity of the big college any day.

    .
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