Depression & Suicide
Depression affects over 19 million Americans in any given year (NIMH). Estimates are that depression costs the nation about 43.7 billion dollars per year for medication, professional care and lost production at work and school. Despite these numbers, depression continues to be one of the most unrecognized and under- diagnosed illnesses in this country.
College students are not exempt from depression, despite the common notion that your college years are supposed to be the happiest time of your life. Depression can affect anyone at any time of his or her life. However individuals between the ages of 15 - 24 seem especially vulnerable. The fact is that in any given year 78% of college students will show symptoms of depression. Approximately only half of those students will seek some sort of professional help for their depressed symptoms.
When you think about it, why wouldn't college students be particularly vulnerable to depression? College is a time of independence and freedom, but it is also a time of unprecedented challenge and transition. College life can be incredibly stressful. Academic pressures cannot be understated: there are the pressures to excel academically, maintain scholarships and to meet parent's performance expectations. On top of this, you have to declare a major and in essence figure out what you're going to do the rest of your life.
Of course college life isn't only about academic performance. There are a number of pressures that exist outside of tests, papers and projects. Managing the differing relationships one develops while at college is often difficult for students. From intimate relationships to roommate acquaintances, the problems that can occur in these relationships can put quite a strain on students who are already stressed due to academic pressures.
There are other stressors: concerns about family finances and available resources, managing time, adjusting to the disorientation of being away from home, being away from family and friends, exposure to differing values and morals, peer pressures and the internal stress that can occur when someone is trying to figure out who they are. All these stressors combined can cause emotional distress and possibly depression.
SIGNS OF DEPRESSION
Sadness, or feeling empty inside
Decreased energy, feeling fatigued a lot of the time
Loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities
Appetite and weight changes (up or down)
Sleep problems (insomnia, oversleeping, or early awakening)
Feeling a sense of hopelessness, guilt, and worthlessness)
Thoughts of death or suicide
Irritability and/or excessive crying
Difficulty with concentrating and problems with memory
Chronic aches and pains
Almost all college students will experience some of these symptoms at one time or another. However if you experience 5 or more of these symptoms for two weeks or longer, you may be suffering from a depressive episode.
What used to be called manic depression, bipolar disorder is a type of depression that involves significant mood swings. People who suffer from this disorder move from feeling depressed to being overly up and excited. Along with feeling high the individual can also experience extreme irritability and agitation. The mood swings more often then not occurs gradually over time. But there are some individuals who experience dramatic shifts in mood. This is called rapid cycling. Some symptoms for bi-polar disorder outside of the mood swings are increased energy and activity, insomnia, reckless behavior, impulsiveness, grandiosity and sexual promiscuity.
Thoughts of suicide and death are often signs of serious depression. Suicidal thoughts should always be taken seriously. If you are having suicidal thoughts or frequent thoughts about death, seek help immediately. Talk to someone you trust: a friend, family member, clergy member, RA or hall director, professor or contact the counseling center. If there is no one around, contact the local crisis hotline (see number below) or call 911. Talking to someone can help a lot, but if you are having suicidal thoughts, chances are you need to be evaluated by a mental health professional. Let the person you've chosen to talk to help you make that connection.
Counseling Services 216-826-2180
County Crisis Hot-Line 216-623-6888