Battling Depression on College Campuses

By GEORGE WAITS

Most college students feel depressed at some point during their time in school. How do they cope?

Priuna McClemore of Decatur, Ga., a freshman at Georgia Piedmont College in downtown Decatur, has already begun to feel the stress of an 18-credit course load and a 10-month-old infant at home.

“A lot of times I feel stressed and feel as though it’s too much but I have someone looking up to me and I have to do my absolute best by all costs,” she said. “I know there are mothers who have it much harder than me and I wonder how they balance college career with family life.”

“I worry about finding employment,” said McClemore, 22, who majors in early childhood education. “Many people say that it is hard finding a job in this recession but I know with dedication and hard work, it can be achievable and I can show my son that he can do it too if he puts his mind to it, even if I don’t feel like I am happy.”

More college students are dealing with depression and anxiety than they did years ago, according to research that has been presented at an annual conference of the American Psychological Association. And with greater diagnoses of depression and anxiety in school, the number of college students on medications has risen.  However, so has the number of suicides among college students.

Suicides related to depression and anxiety have been on the rise on college campuses across the nation in recent years. In the U.S., suicide is the third leading cause of death among college students from 15 to 24 years old. More than 3,900 young people die by committing suicide every year.

Thomas Bingham, a psychology teacher at Georgia Perimeter College in Decatur, Ga., studies depression and anxiety at GPC.

Bingham saw that the percentage of students with moderate to severe depression at GPC has gone up from 20 to 52 percent. People with moderate to severe depression often are in need of greater treatment resources to cope with studies than those without.

The rise in the more severe cases of depression and anxiety in college students may be because more students are coming to college with pre-existing learning disabilities or mental health difficulties and are stressed to an all-time high.

“Because of this school being a community college and most students  not getting proper exposure to life outside college, they are becoming socially unconnected,” Bingham said. “The average college student is sometimes having this problem being able to balance school work and personal life, but the students who are easily immune are frequently socially isolated, depressed and some added medication may be the cause.”

Though college is supposed to be the four greatest years of the students’ lives, it is also an extremely strange time. One minute an all-nighter is pulled, the next minute binge drinking is done, followed by regrets about everything that was done the night before. All while writing up a 10-page assignment that is due in an hour.

So much is expected of college students that they would have enough work to keep them in the library for their entire four years of college.

How can college students do it all at once? Where can a balance be found? They’re stretched so thin, it is no wonder this builds up after a while and makes them feel anxious, stressed and on the verge of a breakdown.

“It has been shown that students will come to counseling for depression rather than bottling it up, whether it is [caused by] breaking up with a partner or worrying about a paper due soon,” Bingham said. “Counseling has helped deal with students’ issues which can be emotional distress and request help.”

The more open and educated college students are about depression and anxiety, the faster we can erase the negative stigma surrounding it.

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