This archived article was written by: Stevie Snyder
Why am I so moody? I just have no ambition. I don’t care anymore. Does this sound familiar to you? Ups and downs are common in all of us; sometimes we just need an extra push to regain control of our lives again. In some cases it may not be that easy. Depression in college is very common.
“It is estimated that about 15 percent of college students have symptoms of depression and about 10 percent arrive with a history of depression. However, it should be noted that having no history of depression does not mean that students are not at risk for developing symptoms,” said Jan Thornton, director of disability resource center and student counseling.
Symptoms of depression include sadness, anxiety, decreased energy or fatigue, loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities, sleep disturbances, appetite and weight changes, feelings of hopelessness, guilt, and worthlessness, thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts, difficulty concentrating, making decisions, or remembering, irritability or excessive crying, and chronic aches and pains not explained by another physical condition, she added.
Stressful events and experiences, or lifestyle changes (such as beginning college or moving away from home for the first time), can trigger episodes of depression.
Early detection and treatment can prevent depression from worsening over a person’s lifetime.
“Without effective treatment, severe bipolar disorder leads to suicide in nearly 20 percent of the cases. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students. For every three murders that occur there are five suicides, and nine out of 10 people who die from suicide suffer from a mental illness, most often depression,” according to the National Institute for Mental Health.
Treatment for depression can include medication, but it is also advised that the person engage in therapy as well.
In addition to the treatment, Thornton advises students to consider the following:
“Carefully plan their day. Make time every day to prioritize your work. Prioritizing can give you a sense of control over what you must do and a sense that you can do it. Plan your work and sleep schedules. Too many students defer doing important class work until nighttime, work through much of the night, and start every day feeling exhausted. Constant fatigue can be a critical trigger for depression. Seven or eight hours of sleep a night is important to your well being.
“Participate in an extracurricular activity. Sports, theater, clubs, the student newspaper – whatever interests you – can bring opportunities to meet people interested in the same things you are, and these activities provide welcome change from class work.
“Seek support from other people. This may be a roommate or a friend from class. Friendships can help make a strange place feel more friendly and comfortable. Sharing your emotions reduces isolation and helps you realize that you are not alone.”
Try relaxation methods. These include meditation, deep breathing, warm baths, long walks, exercise – whatever you enjoy that lessens your feelings of stress and discomfort.
Take time for yourself every day. Make special time for yourself – even if it’s only for 15 minutes a day. Focusing on yourself can be energizing and gives you a feeling of purpose and control over your life, she said.
Finally, if you have a friend who suffers from depression, the best thing you can do for them is to help him or her get treatment. This may involve encouraging the person to seek professional help or to stay in treatment once it is begun. If they are nervous about going to treatment, it may help to offer to take them to the first appointment or walk with them to campus counseling services, she continued.
The next best thing you can do is offer emotional support. This involves understanding, patience, affection, and encouragement. Engage the depressed person in conversation or activities and be gently insistent if you meet resistance. Remind that with time and help, he or she will feel better.”
Remember that it is not helpful to tell people just to “toughen up” or tell them “you know how they feel” – the reality is that when they can’t just “will” themselves out of it, they feel like they failed again and it can worsen the feelings of depression and each individual brings different history and coping mechanisms and their feelings of pain are very unique.
Much of Thornton’s advice, as well as additional information on depression, can be found at the University of Michigan’s website, Mental Health America’s website and at uhs.berkeley.edu.
Students with questions are advised to visit Jan Thornton in the disability resource center located in the SAC building. You can also call her at 613-5326. She is available after hours and instructions for reaching her are on the voice mail in her office.
If students aren’t comfortable with using on-campus services, they are encouraged to seek help from our local mental health center at 637-2358. For after hours emergencies they are encouraged to call dispatch at 637-0890 or contact campus police.