Dealing with Depression in College

Tips from the Counseling Center in 1A

by Jonathan Caban

It is referred to as “The Silent Killer”; striking when you least expect it, when you might find you have no one to turn to for help.

The disease in question is called Major Depressive Disorder or Depression for short. It is a mental illness characterized by sad or anxious feelings. Students get sad all the time but how do you know when these sad or anxious feelings become an illness?

“I was stressed and anxious about school work and things going on at home.” said Krystal Figueroa, a recent graduate of CSI. “I figured I’d just get over it after a while but over time the feelings got worse.”

Figueroa suffered from Depression during her last two years at CSI. Her experience is a similar one that many students have gone through when dealing with the illness. Everyone gets anxious and upset from time to time. However, when these feelings start to interrupt daily life is when the disease takes its severest hold.

“I had no idea what I wanted to pursue in college and I felt lost.” said Figueroa. “At the same time my parents were going through a divorce so life at school and at home was stressful. The only place where I felt calm and relaxed was my bedroom and as a result I always stayed in there to block everything out.”

Figueroa locked herself in her room and barely got out of bed. She wasn’t attending classes regularly, was late with her assignments, and became somewhat of a recluse. Figueroa was always an outgoing and popular girl who always got good grades. As a result of her depression, she changed into an introvert who began failing her classes.

This is how Depression works. It tends to occur during times of great personal change. Feeling confused about her future and her parents’ divorce both affected her deeply.

The problem with Depression is that no one immediately seeks help for it because they just assume the symptoms are just part of everyday life. College is a great experience and while it can be a fun at times, it can also cause some of the most stressful moments in a student’s life. Most of the time, the stress goes away once midterms are over, when papers are finished and no assignments are due. Sometimes, these feelings linger and continue to plague students even after everything has been handed in. This was Figueroa’s experience. She began to display many of the normal symptoms associated with Depression.

“Some signs of depression are feelings of sadness, hopelessness or worthlessness, low energy or fatigue, changes in eating or sleeping, social withdrawal, feelings of rejection, low self-esteem, poor concentration, indecisiveness, irritability, loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities, and declining academic performance (if a student).” said Danielle DePalma, a counselor from the Counseling Center on campus.

Figueroa experienced many of these feelings without realizing she was suffering from any kind of disease at first. Soon she knew something was wrong but felt powerless to do anything about it. She was embarrassed to talk about what was happening with anyone because she felt maybe she was just overreacting and that she’d get over it.

“Depression should be taken seriously. There are many factors that can contribute to a person feeling depressed, and various symptoms can arise.” said DePalma. “If a person is feeling very depressed and experiencing suicidal thoughts, he or she should seek professional assistance as soon as possible. However, a person who is feeling depressed can be assessed by a mental health professional at any point in time and receive treatment, if needed and/or if he or she is interested in receiving assistance.”

Eventually, Figueroa realized something was wrong. Her family and friends noticed the change in her behavior and tried to help. Soon, she received a letter from CSI stating that she was on academic watch and if she didn’t bring up her grades she would be academically dismissed.

“It was a wakeup call for me.” said Figueroa. “I reached out for help and went to counseling. It was what got me back into my routine and I realized that the only way I was going to get the help I needed was to make the first step.”

She decided to take sociology classes and become a counselor herself in order to help others the way she was helped. She graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology last year.“I’m not exactly cured of my Depression but I’m learning to live with it.” said Figueroa. “Even after graduating I’m still in weekly therapy sessions but I’m no longer embarrassed to say so. It helped me cope with what was going on and I can’t even imagine what would’ve happened if I didn’t get help.”

While Figueroa’s Depression was brought on by big stressors in her personal life, it can emerge in others for a variety of reasons. One reason is biological which means that some people have genes which make them more susceptible to having Depression. Alcohol and drug use can also lead to symptoms of this condition. If untreated, it can seriously impair a person’s life and in severe cases can lead to suicide.

According to a survey done by the American College Health Association, “30 percent of college students reported feeling “so depressed that it was difficult to function and more than 6 percent of college students reported seriously considering suicide, and about 1 percent reported attempting suicide in the previous year. Suicide is the third leading cause of death for teens and young adults ages 15 to 24. Students should also be aware that the warning signs can be different in men vs. women.”

There are many ways to alleviate symptoms and help prevent Depression from taking over daily life. Engage in activities such as sports, art, and reading can elevate one’s mood. Exercise is another excellent way to alleviate stress and depression symptoms. One thing college students tend to do is overwhelm themselves with work. Work overload leads to Depression, so one way to avoid this is to space out assignments over time.

Procrastination is a popular method of dealing with all the work that has to be done but it will only lead to feeling overwhelmed which leads to ailing symptoms.

College students tend to not sleep at all, let alone the recommended 8 hours a night. As a result, getting enough rest is another way to help with Depression. Of course, the best way to help with Depression is to speak with a therapist or counselor. Students might be embarrassed to admit that they need treatment but it is the best thing in order to take back control and live life.

“Treatment recommendations depend on the individual client’s needs. Some options include individual or group therapy and/or medication.” said DePalma. “If a student at CSI is feeling depressed, they can seek assistance at our Counseling Center, which is located in 1A-109. A student can walk in and see a Counselor on Duty or set up an appointment; he or she can be seen one time or on an ongoing basis. If you need further information about our services, please feel free to contact us at 718-982-2391.”

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