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Feeling Depressed? You’re Not Alone

Staying healthy while in college is important for students in order to get good grades and have a good experience. Unfortunately, even when trying to stay healthy, a person’s mental health often gets ignored. Depression is a common mental health condition that is caused by a combination of factors, including life events, brain chemistry, genetics and some medications.

Depression is more than just occasionally feeling down. There are numerous signs and symptoms of depression, including prolonged feelings of sadness or unhappiness, unusual irritability even over small things, an unexplained loss of interest or pleasure in doing normal activities, having trouble sleeping, sleeping all day, an inability to concentrate or make decisions and frequent thoughts of death, dying or suicide. Most people have some of these feelings every once in awhile, but those experiencing depression continue to experience these symptoms for days or weeks at a time with little or no reprieve.

As college students we experience many new pressures in our lives. We have to adapt to our academic load, roommates, loans, schedules, work and fitting in with new peer groups. Even enjoyable parts of the college experience like sports and serious romantic relationships can add quite a bit of pressure to our lives. It is therefore no surprise that 44 percent of students report having symptoms of depression at some point during their college career.

Depression is quite treatable, and some treatments work better than others depending on the individual. A holistic approach should be taken when deciding which treatment(s) are best for you. Talking through your feelings with a therapist can help you to understand depression and learn skills and insights to keep depression from coming back. Medication can be very helpful in many cases, but lifestyle changes like exercise, nutrition, sleep, social support and stress reduction can also make a large impact on depression.

Unfortunately, most college students experiencing depression do not receive any assistance. Many do not get help because they do not realize they are depressed, while others are worried about being judged if they seek mental health care.

Depression is one of the most stigmatized mental health issues. Speaking about depression and acknowledging the need for help should not be taboo. Consider what you might think about a person who is suffering from depression. It is as common and normal as the flu, and no one is looked down on for having the flu. If necessary, educate yourself about depression and reposition your thinking.

If you suspect that a friend might be depressed, talk to them about what’s going on and listen. Encourage your friend to talk about their feelings. Also, ask them to schedule a meeting with a counselor as soon as possible. Eastern offers counseling services for free to all of their undergraduate students at the Cushing Center for Counseling and Academic Support (CCAS). Their phone number is (610)341-5837.

It is important to know that depression symptoms may not get better on their own. In fact, depression may get worse if left untreated. Untreated depression can eventually cause mental and physical health issues. Long-term depression can also increase a person’s chance of abusing drugs or alcohol or dying by suicide.

More teenagers and young adults die by suicide than cancer, stroke, heart disease, pneumonia, AIDS, influenza and lung disease combined. If you or a friend come to a point where you are considering suicide, take a few minutes and give the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline a call at 1(800)273-8255. Non-judgmental, skilled crisis counselors who want to help you are available 24/7.

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