Once upon a time, we were little kids, promised the same happiness of blissfully riding bikes as we grew up. However, as we lost free time and watched our bikes rust and decorate with dust, it became clear that this fairytale proved impossible to continue.
Depression is real in college campuses. According to the annual American Freshman Survey conducted by UCLA, in these past few years, students’ self-rated mental health rating dropped from 64.3 percent in 1986, 55 percent in 2001, to 50.7 percent in 2014, the lowest percentage in the history of the survey.
Depression very easily slipped into college campuses causing the emotional health of incoming freshman to hit a record breaking low for the first time in 30 years.
This startling statistic is only one of many, however. According to the American College Health Association, 45 percent of college students have felt things were hopeless during the spring 2013 semester. This uncontrollable hopelessness often drives college students to suicide, leaving suicide as the second leading cause of death for college-age youth.
Anna Belle Wood, an Athens EMDR therapist at the Banyan Tree Center, said that depression is different for every person, which makes recognizing a continuous, unhappy demeanor a little challenging.
However, she and the other therapists at the center found that diagnosing depression does allow students to move forward and find help from professionals. The unpleasant effects that coincide with depression, however, are generated by many factors that are a part of college.
According to UGA health educator Kelly Truesdell, being in an unfamiliar place, or a “dramatic transition” causes depressed students to drop out and return home where they may feel more mentally safe. “Going off to college may cause a lot of pressure and culture shocks, especially for individuals who aren’t used to sharing a living space or making decisions without adult supervision,” Truesdell said.
College life includes many other stressful components like financial strain, pressure to keep grades up for scholarships, balancing school, work and choosing a career path. These factors continue to weigh students down until they become immensely lethargic and unable to effectively work at their maximum potential.
It’s no coincidence that schools such as Colombia University, with an average yearly tuition of roughly $59,000 and Northwestern University with a yearly rate of $58,000 (and rising) also rank as the colleges with the most stressed out or depressed student bodies, according to College Degree Research.
Kim Turner, professional counselor on the National Board for Certified Counselors, specializes in self-esteem and anxiety issues. “Especially at UGA, I have seen anxiety become more prevalent,” Turner said. “This is a great school, but at this time in college students’ lives, it’s a lot to make them get on campus and decide what they have to do with their lives.”
Turner also mentions another significant factor that impacts depression in college students: Social media. Social media continually proves to be destructive in happiness and confidence. Young adults constantly witness achievements and appearances of others on various forms of social media, and thereby end up comparing themselves.
According to research conducted by Nathan Hurst at The University of Missouri, Facebook links to the feeling of “envy” in students. This results in feelings of worthlessness and inadequacy. Social media, combined with financial issues and changing environments are just some of the main ways that depression creeps into the lives of college students and ruin their relationships, grades and futures.
Despite the seemingly endless dark forest of depression, a knight in shining armor exists for this illness. Almost all college campuses provide counseling services to their students.
According to USA Today, as of 2014, one in every 10 college student has used these services, and have found the benefit in speaking with someone who can prescribe them antidepressants, or just be a non-biased listener.
Alongside medication, depression can be helped by surrounding yourself by loved ones or things you enjoy. “Balance is important,” Truesdell said. “[It’s imperative to] make sure you have that space in your planner.”
Set aside time for yourself or “treating yo’ self” begins to add a hint of positivity in your day. Whether it’s getting that ice cream, sleeping in an extra hour or laying in bed and watching a movie, doing small things for yourself helps take the disease down one step at a time.
For students in need of help, there is hope. Truesdell said, “Recognizing when there’s something in your life beyond your control is the most important part.”
This means that one chapter at a time, depression doesn’t need to be the villain in your college fairytale.