Depression on the Hill


Nearly 30 percent of college students faced depression in 2009, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

NIMH categorizes depression into five subcategories: major depression, dysthymia, minor depression, psychotic depression and seasonal affective disorder.

Even on Florida A&M’s campus four years later, some students continue to battle for inner peace. Hakeem Phillips, a senior music student from Pensacola, recalled a very dark period in his college career.

“It was during a time when it seemed everything was going wrong,” Phillips said. “I didn’t have any money, couldn’t find a job and friends were turning their backs on me.”

He said his case of depression went as far as affecting his schoolwork and led him to thoughts of returning home and dropping out of school altogether.

“I got up one day and went to Gainesville for a month and stayed with a friend from back home,” Phillips said. “When I got back to Tallahassee, my neighbor invited me to church at New Mount Zion. I went and never looked back.”

However, this ending is not always the case for other students. Shantivia Conley, a former pre-veterinary student at FAMUfrom Carol City, said she is familiar with depression and saw cases of it around campus in her peers. She believes depression is mainly perpetuated by lack of money and neglect from parents.

“Some parents send their kids to college and just neglect them because they are ‘grown,'” she said.

She also said the feeling of abandonment entices some students to do what is necessary to get money, and students lose hope in their financial struggles.

“There are three colleges up there and nowhere near enough jobs,” Conley said of Tallahassee.

Marie Vandenberg, home plate case manager of the HOPE (Housing Opportunities and Personal Empowerment) Community at the Big Bend Homeless Coalition, has seen firsthand how financial burdens can lead to depression.

She has also worked for the Apalachee Center, a local community health center. Vandenberg said the Apalachee Center provides inpatient, outpatient and residential care for people experiencing mental ailments.

She defines depression as feeling sad about life but not getting past it. Most cases of depression in students, Vandenberg said, arise from trauma and abandonment. She also said depression comes from changes in friends, schools and living situations, but she encourages seeking treatment.

“Some ways to treat depression are to seek counseling and/or therapy,” Vandenberg said, adding that seeking help is the most effective way of battling depression. “It’s no different than having diabetes.”

Vandenberg suggests students read the “Diagnostic Statistical Manual,” which she calls the “psychiatric bible,” to research forms of depression, gain clarity on its nature and learn what symptoms to look for.

For more information about symptoms of depression and ways to cope, call the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance of Tallahassee at 850-421-9252.