Despite myths, depression affects students

Attending college, students deal with so much, ranging from family, relationships to academia. Students usually expres1s their feelings by stating that they are always stressed out or depressed. But do we really know what the term depression is? Can students be diagnosed with clinical depression or do they misuse the term?

Depression is a mental illness when a person will experience deep sadness. If people feel this way for a long period, then they may be clinically depressed.

This disease is often seen in women and children, but it is also being seen in college students.

Patricia, a 23-year-old from Pembroke Pines, who wished to remain anonymous, said she was diagnosed with clinical depression in the middle of her college years.

“I was experiencing a lot of mood swings and it was unlike me to be that way. I thought it was some hormonal problem, but it wasn’t,’ she said. ‘I talked to my roommate and she thought something was wrong with me.”

Patricia and her family had a friend who was a psychiatrist. She went to him for assistance. He asked her about what was bothering her on a daily basis. He went through a checklist of her symptoms and diagnosed her with clinical depression.

Patricia said, “People think that its academics on a whole, but it’s not just that. It’s everything around you. There are personal issues in life and having to deal with it.”

“I tend to see depression in older students because they are burnt out with school or overwhelmed,” Angela Emanuel said.

Emanuel is the associate professor of pharmacy practice in the College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. She has taught clinical training, therapeutics, neurology, psychiatry, and patient counseling and alternates medicine assessment counseling. She has also worked with a psychiatric group with bipolar and mental illness.

Those who are more susceptible to clinical depression have their first start of depression between the ages of 18 and 22, according to the Guide to Understanding Depression versus Sadness, of Dartmouth College.

People may not consider depression a major part of college students’ lives. Parents have said things like “it’s a part of growing” or “you’re supposed to be busy in school.”

Sharon Ames-Dennard, director of the Center for Human Development, said that students are depressed because they may have some unresolved issues. Then the issues “become assailant when the students are in college.”

“Students disconnect themselves with their parents or they may get lonely,” Ames-Dennard said. “They add more stress due to college. They deal with relationships because they are half-needy and half-scared. Success and failure become more prominent because they don’t know what to do with their major.”

Ames-Dennard added, “Students are forced to think about this [career and major]. There are more developmental challenges in college. They [students] have to deal with family, career moves and personal identity.”

“Dealing with college kids, you would see changes in performance, they may isolate themselves or may have crying spells. They may also get into drugs for self treatment,” Emmanuel said.

Agreeing with Ames-Dennard, Emmanuel mentioned that college students are depressed from a realm of things.

Emmanuel said that there is approximately 15-20 percent of college students who are depressed. They deal with things but don’t want to get help and talk about it.

College students have “this myth about counseling. They think that we will talk about their issues to everyone else, but it’s confidential. On any college campus, counseling services are free. Most of them even have consulting psychologists,” Ames-Dennard said.

But a major problem when dealing with depression is the capability to notice that things aren’t going well. And this is a problem because students don’t think that they have a problem; they deny it.

Patricia said, “People are afraid to be diagnosed because they think that they are crazy. That’s clearly not the case. We all have issues.”

Emmanuel said, “You do have a lot of denial. Blacks, in particular, because of the stigmatism with being treated. We don’t embrace counseling. And most college students don’t speak about it [a problem they have or counseling].”

The first step for students is to recognize the symptoms of depression before they seek out counseling.

These are some signs of clinical depression according to Dartmouth College: concentration is often impaired; inability to experience pleasure; sleep disturbance or inability to fall back to sleep; feeling fatigued after 12 hours of sleep; decrease in appetite or food loses its taste; feeling of guilt, helplessness and/or hopelessness; thoughts of suicide; increased isolation; missing deadlines; change in personality; drug use; and increased sexual promiscuity.

The biggest risk is not getting treatment. If counseling doesn’t work then there are medications that psychiatrists can prescribe which can help in many instances with the mood of a depressed person.

Depression is a serious disease that is not acknowledged by many college students. Students need to want to get help with personal issues and ignore the stigmatism that they are crazy. They aren’t. They are in an emotional state, which can cause serious illness in the future.