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College Students and Mental Illness: A Personal Look at Depression

 

Classwork , homework, quizzes, tests, finals, projects, work, and depression. For most, this combination is foreign to them, but, for some, it is an all-too-real reality that presents itself as a struggle each day.

I was diagnosed with depression just this semester, but I struggled with the effects of sadness all throughout my life. When I was younger, my sadness was much more manageable. I was able to sit with my emotions for a while and then be able to continue with my day.

However, after my mom passed away just before I graduated high school, my mind could not handle depression along with grief. My small instances of sadness that had been manageable soon turned into a constant gloom of self hate and loathing of the world. I thought that coming to college would be the ultimate cure to depression. I saw how people could transform themselves after moving to university. That glimmer of hope did not last long. As my depression grew, I subjected myself to unhealthy coping methods that furthered my spiral into deep sadness.

Depression as well as the normal stressors of college forced me to believe that secluding myself from all of my friends was the best option. I stopped talking to those closest to me. I thought, “They cannot know what I am going through. No one could be as sad as I am now.” This was perhaps the most destructive thing I could have said to myself. I firmly believed that I was alone in this world– that no one could ever begin to fathom the pain I was going through. Also, I thought I was not worthy of someone having sympathy for me. My depression told me everyday that I was not worthy of time, effort, or love.

My shining light was counseling. I was encouraged by new friends as well as a growing extended family support system, to better my mental health. I began going to CCAS last year. I enjoyed the idea of going to someone who was forced, in a way, to listen to my problems. However, I felt shame for going. I did not feel shame for attempting to receive help, but I felt shame for not being strong enough to admit my problem sooner.

The theme of shame is a common one among those struggling with mental illness. I was also faced with shame from the stigma that is constantly attached to mental health. I feel that the number one question I am asked is “are you on medication?” The truth of the matter is that no one is required to answer that question. For the sake of this article, I will. I am on antidepressants. I just recently started them, so my judgement on them is quite new. Last year, counseling alone worked for the most part. However, in light of self-care, I realized before this semester that my depression was too heavy to cope with on my own. I decided to start antidepressants because I was tired of feeling sad all the time. I was tired of falling behind in classes because the stress that everyone else was dealing with was another load added to my shoulders.

The truth is that many college students struggle with mental illness. 40 percent of college students tend to struggle with anxiety, the leading mental illness of our age group, with depression at 35 percent. About a quarter of college students with mental illnesses seek some form of medication as a form of treatment. However, many universities lack adequate counseling services and mental health resources on campus. This is where I got lucky; I was given a school like Eastern that tries its best to reach those who need help and get that for them.

I urge anyone struggling with depression or any other mental illness to know that you are not alone. I have depression, but I am normal, I am sane. My depression is a part of who I am. The beast that is the chemical mishaps in our brains will not get the best of us. You are worthy of a platform to share your story; a story that is uniquely intertwined with the happy memories of our lives that we have and need to appreciate.

Source: American Psychological Association

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