I'm a U.S. student studying abroad in Canada and also an undergraduate student. I believe my question could apply to graduate students in the same situation, i.e. someone who has not had prior mental health issues and who is unaware how to move forward.

Recently, starting a little before this Fall semester, I've been struggling with most tell-tale signs of depression (no motivation, constantly sleeping, gaining weight, etc). I live with my girlfriend off-campus, and she also struggles with mental health issues. I have been struggling to find motivation to work as hard as I was in the beginning of the semester. I was originally taking a 5 course load, but had to drop one course due to not meeting the prerequisite (I was wrongly advised, but take responsibility for not confirming and sitting down with someone before registering in the course).

Of my remaining 4 courses, only one have I truly excelled in all semester (due to the fact that I have worked with with the content of the course before extensively, and it came naturally to me).

I started out well in my other 3 courses (and have also completed all labs and assignments) but have gone downhill, to the point where I am worried I could possibly fail the courses if I don't do well enough on the exams (very bad second midterm results).

I haven't spoke to anyone professionally, nor any advisor at the University about this issue. I feel like if I do not email or meet with my professors soon and explain, they won't take me seriously after the fact my grade has been posted. I wrote one exam the other day and will write the others soon.

What is the best course of action for me to take? Should I email my professors, or meet with them? Should I try to talk to an advisor first? I have read this question but I feel like I'm on a much more limited time table, and of course this is entirely my fault for not taking action sooner. Does anyone have any suggestions on what the correct steps to take are?

  • 9
    "I haven't spoke to anyone professionally" - do you mean you haven't spoken to a mental health professional? If that's what you meant, why not? Depression is a serious illness, but fortunately, generally a treatable one.
    – ff524
    Dec 11, 2015 at 2:09
  • 5
    Moreover, in nearly all cases, a professor is going to need to see a note from a mental health professional before making any major adjustments to your grades, deadlines, exam schedules, etc. Professors are not qualified to judge your mental health status by themselves. So, in addition to your own well-being (which of course must come first), seeing a professional will also be necessary from an academic standpoint. Do that first. Dec 11, 2015 at 2:23
  • At this late date (sounds like you're already midway through final exams), you may just have to do the best you can. At my school there is a process to petition the registrar/academic affairs for a retroactive withdrawal from courses for extenuating circumstances like health issues. Dec 11, 2015 at 3:22
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    Your institution will likely have a support department with a name like Counseling Center. Go there. They can help with a referral and may be able to help directly.
    – Bob Brown
    Dec 11, 2015 at 10:41

3 Answers 3


I am fairly confident that your university must have some kind of psychological counseling service for students. These are professionals and also highly experienced in the specific challenges of students. Start there, today. They will be able to point to you in the right direction.

Academically, your college's undergraduate office is very likely to be able to reach out to all your professors and advise them that you have a health issue going on that would necessitate accommodations. Do this as soon as you have an appointment with counseling. They may encourage you to contact your professors for arrangements, perhaps not immediately. You shouldn't need to explain the details of your health situation to your professors--they already have the official heads-up and that is all they need to know.

Bottom line, universities deal with this frequently and have mechanisms in place to juggle with all the aspects; there is no need for you to brave the storm alone.

All the best to you.

  • It is called student health centers, ( I dont know if they have it in Canada) its is similar like hospitals and health care institution but only patients are students or all staff employed at university. Clinical psychologist are responsible for treating and diagnosing depression.
    – SSimon
    Dec 11, 2015 at 14:44

Get professional treatment.

That's step one. The rest is details to worry about later.

I actually don't know the answer to the rest of your questions although I am positive seeing a professional sooner than later is going to make everything go better.


Step one is to get professional diagnosis of your condition. and after that to ask a consent for freezing a year (if you are diagnosed with health issues) Rest is up to bureaucracy of your university. my advice, something that I would do, would be to take a break due to health issues, I am not sure if you have this option in Canada, but in many other countries you can freeze your academic status until you resolve your health problem. by freezing, I mean you can keep your status as regular student, but you are not available to study since you have some difficulties or other external task (military service, student exchange, similar) to overcome.

  • 1
    Don't follow our advice as to what to do (year freeze or whatever): Seek help through your university channels (see my response for details) and then work out a plan for you with them. Dec 11, 2015 at 12:47
  • I am not sure if student counselors are appropriate for treatment of depression @Prof.JoséF.Martínez usually, they dont have this jurisdiction
    – SSimon
    Dec 11, 2015 at 14:36
  • Who will ultimately help him/her manage his/her potential depression is something they can help him/her with later; he/she needs someone to step in and get things going, student counseling is the right place to start. Dec 11, 2015 at 15:02
  • yes, I agree, except OP will fail a year, there is no other way than freezing a year ( in that way OP will avoid paying tuition again)
    – SSimon
    Dec 11, 2015 at 15:25

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