Feeling sad for what seems to be no reason at all. Inflicting physical pain in order to deal with emotions. These are common signs of depression or self-abuse and no one should have to live this way.
“Depression is a persistent mood state lasting at least two weeks and characterized by a decreased interest in activities that have usually been enjoyable,” said Dr. Sam Cochran, Director of University Counseling Service at the University of Iowa.
Common symptoms of depression are disruptions in regular sleeping and eating patterns, difficulty concentrating or making decisions, fatigue, feelings of sadness and guilt and thoughts of death or suicide. One of the most dangerous symptoms of depression is self-abuse, which is when a person causes physical injury to himself or herself.
“The most common types of self-abuse are cutting or scratching, or burning the skin with cigarettes, hitting or banging body parts, and ingesting poisons or other dangerous substances,” said Cochran.
Kristi Kaye, a freshman at Dutchess Community College, shared that she has been depressed for about four years. Kaye experiences difficulty with concentration and memorization, constant exhaustion for no apparent reason, irregular sleep, and lost interest in many things she loved. But things turned for the worst when she began having fleeting thoughts of suicide and began cutting.
“Motives for self-abuse or self-injury vary widely. Some of the more commonly stated reasons include relieving internal or psychological pain by releasing it through self injury and giving the pain an external manifestation through a wound or injury,” Cochran explained. “Other reasons for self abuse or self injury include triggering a noticeable physical sensation when feeling numb or attempting to demonstrate to others the feelings of pain and suffering that the person experiences.”
Rafaela Toledo, a junior at Pontifical Catholic University of Peru, was clinically diagnosed with depression two years ago. However, she says she has been depressed for much longer. “I couldn’t make myself get out of bed for 3 weeks [before]. I gained over 15 pounds. I also tend to self-harm which includes cutting myself with razors or the burning of my skin,” said Toledo. She had received professional counseling for about 10 years and is now taking daily medications, but believes that most people going through this would not seek help.
“I believe most students do not [even] understand what depression is or what it involves,” said Toledo. “They don’t realize how serious it is or how much of the aspects of your life will be tainted by this horrible disease.”
Kaye had been admitted to a hospital for a week and has had several therapists. She is currently taking medications and is slowly recovering.
“I’m still struggling to overcome it but I’m succeeding. It’s a lot of self-will and strength. It’s keeping yourself busy and distracted on a constant basis or you will sink back down. Also, you have to be willing to change and actually want it to be gone for you to overcome it,” said Kaye.
Self-abuse and depression are serious conditions that should get treated as soon as possible.
“Clinical depression does not lift quickly or easily, and may persist for extended lengths of time without treatment. Students should seek help from a physician or mental health professional. On college and university campuses, the best place to start would be the counseling center or health center. [They] are staffed by trained and licensed mental health professionals with experience in dealing with these kinds of situations,” said Cochran. “About one in four people will experience a clinical depression at some point in their lifetime,” said Cochran. “Rates of clinical depression are not higher for college students although the late teens and early twenties are the ages when a true clinical depression may first appear.”
Kaye recommends making a list of things that make you happy to refer to whenever you are feeling down and Toledo suggests keeping a journal. Another option is to talk to others who have gone through this themselves. Kaye actually has an advice blog for those struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts. Her blog allows you to ask her questions and get her opinion. Most importantly, if you do believe that you are suffering from depression or have had thoughts of inflicting self-harm, you must seek help.
“Depression often remits over time, the psychological suffering and the decline in functioning that frequently accompanies depression [would make] it very difficult to be successful as a college student,” said Cochran.
There is help for those with symptoms of depression, but it is a matter of willingness to accept this help.