Depression hits students hardest

Today’s college students have to balance schoolwork, jobs and extracurriculars such as clubs, sports and social lives. A new study reported that college students are more prone to depression.

According to the National College Health Assessment conducted by the American College Health Association, 60.5 percent of college students were reported feeling “very sad” in the past year and 30.3 percent of students said they felt “so depressed that it was hard to function” at least once in the past year.

Depression is defined as excessive sadness that sticks around for more than four weeks and will interfere with daily functioning, such as sleep patterns, eating habits and class attendance. Students who are depressed are more likely to attempt suicide, abuse alcohol and other drugs and smoke cigarettes.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, most people experience the first symptoms of depression during their college years—between ages 18 through 24.

“College students are under a huge amount of pressure,” said Bailey Smith, a public speaking professor at Oswego State and a mental health counselor at Integrative Counseling Services. “For most, it’s the first time they’re leaving the comforts of home. Not only that, they have to decide what they want to do for the rest of their lives and do well at it. Their typical supports aren’t there and they’re left to fend for themselves sometimes.”

Depression can be caused by both environmental and biological factors.

Environmental factors include separation from familiar people and places, stress due to academics and relationship pressures—all very common situations in the lives of college students.

Biological depression occurs when a person’s body cannot produce the correct chemicals to connect the neurotransmitters in the brain to create positive moods.

Regardless of whether a student is suffering from environmental or biological depression, there are plenty of resources available for students to get help right here on campus.

“Time and time again, the research has proven that talk therapy paired with medication has the biggest and best impact on depression,” Maria Grimshaw-Clark, the director of Counseling Services at Oswego State, said.

The university’s Counseling Services Center, located in the Mary Walker Health Center, offers individual, groups and couples counseling appointments with trained mental health counselors Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. They also offer an after-hours hotline, available from 4:30 p.m. to 8:30p.m., Monday through Sunday, where students can talk to a licensed mental health practitioner.

Despite the wealth of resources available to students struggling with depression, many are still afraid to seek help.

According to Grimshaw-Clark, many students are afraid to go talk to a counselor or perceive going to get help as a weakness.

“I invite students to engage in services because we have a top notch staff,” Grimshaw-Clark said. “If you were to access them for services off campus, you would have to pay a great deal. Your student fees pay for the service, so why not take the Counseling Services Center up on the offer to learn, explore and incorporate healthy living?”

In addition to traditional counseling, Smith recommended setting up a schedule and establishing a good support system to help deal with depression.

“I know a lot of people get here and they want to sleep all day and party all night,” Smith said. “Know your limits, take care of yourself and try not to fall into that cycle of going to parties every night.”

More information in counseling services can be found on the Counseling Services Center as well as handouts, pamphlets and online self-screening tests.