Depression and Coping in College

Tramaine Kennedy, Contributing Writer

College is filled with new experiences and challenges such as living with roommates, making new friends, late night studying and setting your own priorities. While some students are thrilled to leave home and be on their own, others are prone to being homesick due to the absence of their close family and friends. Though freedom and independence can be exciting, trying to balance classes, work and a social life can cause stress and possibly clinical depression among college students.

Clinical depression is more than just feeling “the blues” for a short period of time. It is a mood disorder in which feelings of sadness, frustration, emptiness and apathy engulf your day-to-day life for weeks, months or years. Clinical depression can interfere with your ability to eat, work, study, sleep and have fun. Often you lose interest in activities that once seemed enjoyable, such as hanging out with friends, hobbies, sports, etc. People with clinical depression aren’t able to function as they once did.

In the article “College Students and Depression,” clinical and research psychologist Timothy Peterson said “18 to 24 is a very common age range for people to experience their first episode of depression. Major depressive disorder is one of the leading risk factors for suicide, and in America’s college age population, suicide is the third leading cause of death, after accidents and homicides.”

Sometimes the reasons for one’s depression are unclear. The causes of clinical depression can be complex and result in a combination of genetic, psychological and environmental factors. Some common stressors in college life that can cause or contribute to depression include academic standing, homesickness, financial responsibilities, relationship problems, family concerns, social isolation, awareness of your sexual identity/orientation or preparing for life after graduation.

There are different levels of depression, for which the severity and duration of symptoms vary. As for clinical depression, symptoms include an overwhelming feeling of sadness and hopelessness, lack of motivation, sleep disturbances (oversleeping or insomnia), appetite changes, unexplained chronic aches and pains, excessive weight loss or gain, low self-esteem and even thoughts of death or suicide. All these symptoms keep a depressed person from functioning at their full ability.

Depression is not a passing mood that you can snap out of, nor is it a sign of personal weakness. If you think you might be depressed, you should seek help from a health care or mental health professional who can evaluate your concerns. Bringing a friend to your appointment can decrease your feelings of anxiety. Patrice Bailey, a junior at SUNY College at Oneonta, gave some insight into the topic, stating, “Depression is a serious thing…but students tend to find their own way of dealing with it. Some go about it the wrong way and others the right way. Treat it by keeping yourself busy, joining activities and hanging out with friends.” Building positive new habits and increasing activity involvement are great self-help strategies, but those are just starting points for tackling depression and shouldn’t be a substitute for professional help.

If you feel overwhelmed with stress and believe you might be suffering from clinical depression, the SUNY Oneonta Counseling Center located in the Health and Wellness Center on campus is great place to talk to someone and think out loud. The Counseling Center specializes in helping students, whether it is to assist in solving problems or just listening. The qualified staff of counselors includes psychologists and social workers. The meetings with counselors are confidential, so there’s no need to worry about your personal issues leaking out. The counseling center also provides individual, group and couples counseling. In addition, all services are free.

The article “Tips to Help You Cope with Depression,” provided by the National Health Service Choices, urges depressed people to “seek help immediately if you start to feel like you can’t cope, life is becoming very difficult or your life isn’t worth living… These are signs that you need to talk to someone. If you’ve had depression or anxiety in the past, even if they weren’t formally diagnosed, get help immediately. You’re more likely to have an episode of depression if you’ve had one before.” Depression is common among college students and should be taken seriously. Don’t give in to negative thinking.

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