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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Depression in college students: knowledge is power

Among college students, depression is so common that it is often referred to as the “common cold of mental health concerns” by psychologists. A 2011 survey of UC Davis students, performed by the American College Health Association, showed that 20 percent of students acknowledged feeling so depressed in the last 12 months that it was difficult to function.

Although most students tend to avoid confronting this issue, most psychologists and health providers alike agree that depression in college students is a topic that commands our attention.

“Depression can be triggered by difficulties in life and there’s no shortage of opportunities for things to become difficult in college,” said Dorje Jennette, a psychologist at UC Davis’ Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS).

According to the National Institutes of Health, depression is a common but serious mental illness typically marked by sad or anxious feelings. Other symptoms of depression may vary, but commonly people feel empty, hopeless and guilty and often have a loss of appetite, lack of energy, problems concentrating and loss of interest.

Although most, if not all, college students occasionally feel sad or anxious, these emotions usually pass quickly — within a couple of days. But when these feelings don’t go away, depression is usually the cause.

“It is normal to feel run down every once in a while, but being down and out, not functioning, for more than a couple weeks would be a clear sign that it’s a good time to get to a health professional,” Jennette said.

Depression does not have a single cause and can be triggered by many different factors. Many of these factors are prevalent in college.

“Relationship issues, anxiety about school and increased stress level can all trigger depression,” said Jacqueline Horn, a UC Davis professor of psychology. “Also, depression involves loss, so sometimes just returning to school after a break can trigger feelings of depression.”

Although depression can be very prevalent in college, many resources are available to students, and psychologists suggest seeking help as soon as possible before the problem gets out of hand.

“For many students, college is a time to learn how to cope with difficulties. An effective array of coping strategies can be key to preventing a setback from becoming a knockdown,” Jennette said.

Jennette explained that CAPS has professionals who know the proven ways to handle depression, and CAPS mental health staff is available by phone 24/7. Student Health and Counseling Services also have a free anonymous screening questionnaire on its website that helps to assess depression.

Most mental health professionals acknowledge that reaching out for help can be the hardest step. But the Davis community has made it easier by providing services that appeal to all students. The House, a confidential peer-counseling center affiliated with CAPS, offers a variety of free and confidential services to UC Davis students.

“We offer drop-in peer counseling from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. We also have classes on meditation and yoga and a biofeedback machine in which a computer program leads you through exercises that measure heart rate to help modulate your breathing and bring down your anxiety and stress level,” said Kong Lor, a senior psychology major and peer counselor at The House.

Horn also warns that seeing depression in yourself can sometimes be difficult. Thus, friends can often be a student’s best support system.

“Usually people are less likely to notice this in themselves, but their friends often will. I’d encourage [students] to listen to their friends, and if their friends express concern, then talk to someone who can help,” Horn said.

CLAIRE MALDARELLI can be reached at science@theaggie.org

3 COMMENTS

  1. kredit trotz schufa…

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