Depression often remains unaddressed on campus

Eileen Martin/ Guilfordian

“Hey, how are you?”

“Fine.”

Is this true or is it a mere rehearsed response?

According the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in four people between the ages of 18 and 24 suffer from a diagnosable mental illness. Guilford College is no exception.

“The most common mental illnesses in college students are anxiety disorders, depressive disorders, and attention deficit disorders,” said Child Psychiatrist Dr. David W. Gould III in a phone interview. “They are the most common in the general population.”

According to psychcentral.com, 44 percent of U.S. college students report feeling symptoms of depression.

These students felt more than just occasional sadness.

Depression is prolonged despair that does not seem to have an end. Symptoms include hopelessness, irritability, anxiety, guilt, tiredness, diminished concentration, loss of interest in hobbies, sleeping too much or not enough, overeating or not eating very much at all and thoughts of suicide or suicide attempts.

Physical health is not immune to the influences of depression. Along with the emotional symptoms, it can cause digestive problems, headaches, cramps and general body pains.

Depression takes form in one of three types: clinical or major depression, chronic depression and atypical depression.

You may have heard of “manic depression,” but this is actually bipolar disorder, and the former name is no longer used professionally.

Causes of depression vary. Genetics cause depression to run in families. Shifts in brain chemistry that cause a chemical imbalance during transitional life stages like adolescence and young adulthood also prove to be common. Even the environment affects an individual’s depression. Difficult life situations like stress, break-ups, the death of a loved one, unemployment or significant failures set a fine stage for illness.

Essentially, it can come from anywhere, including Guilford.

“20 percent of Guilford College students reported symptoms of depression,” said Director of Counseling Gaither Terrell. “40 percent of our students reported being diagnosed with a mental or emotional disorder versus the 18 percent national sample.”

With all of these facts in mind, dealing with depression and other mental health issues is often much easier said than done. But there is hope.

There is a lot an individual can do, according to Terrell.

“Be proactive in structuring a life that is balanced,” she said. “Use the resources available to you. Seek out the help you need. Be supportive of others in your community by watching for signs or symptoms of mental and emotional difficulties.”

The help that is sought out can be quite efficient. However, it has its faults.

“There is a shortage in the field (of counseling and psychiatry) in terms of manpower,” said Gould. “But it’s getting better. Having information campaigns, talks with first-years and making it easier to approach the subject will make things easier for individuals seeking help.”

“The counseling center needs to be advertised more,” said sophomore Eva Sutton. “The counseling itself was fantastic. The counselors respect your boundaries, yet they help you achieve personal growth too.”

While advertising efforts continue, one major factor prevents students from seeking help: the stigma surrounding mental illness.

Typically, mentally ill individuals are seen as incompetent, dangerous and useless to society as a whole. However, this persistent perception only hurts society as a whole.

One striking example of how stigma hurts depression sufferers is the suicide rate amongst males and females. Females are more often diagnosed with depression compared to males. However, this is not because females are more prone to it. Males on average commit suicide more often than females because they do not seek help as often as females. This is because of the stigma of weakness surrounding mental illness.

Many with mental illness do not seek help at all because of the stigma. This leaves statistics skewed and the mentally ill more vulnerable to the difficulties of their treatable conditions.

However, some sufferers refuse to become victims.

“It makes me stronger,” said senior Vita Price regarding her experiences with depression and attention deficit disorder. “I feel like (the stigma) makes me want to talk about it more often. Depression doesn’t make me homicidal or suicidal. It makes me unhappy, but it doesn’t make me a bad person.”

There are many like Price who rise above the stereotypes designated for the mentally ill, and help others to do the same. All you have to do is reach out.

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