Every September, the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor comes to life again. Incoming students from all over the world arrive eager to embark on their new college adventures and ready to start their independent lives away from home. For many of these new students, excitement fills them; however, for many others, stress and anxiety may also occur.
As the school year quickly picks up pace, students often find themselves feeling homesick and overwhelmed with the academic rigor at Michigan. They experience difficulty making friends and stress over how to balance their new lives. Many students begin to adapt and readjust, whereas others find themselves facing depression.
Depression is found worldwide and affects everyone regardless of gender, age, race or any other demographics. A 2011 study from the American Psychological Association revealed that the rates of depression among college students are steadily increasing. Furthermore, although it has been found to be more prevalent in women, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, more than 6-million men face depression each year.
Research has also shown that men are often unable to recognize their own symptoms of depression or feel embarrassed by their depression due to the stigma behind it. So even though free resources for treatment of depression are available through the University’s Counseling and Psychological Services, because men are often less aware of their symptoms (which can vary from women’s symptoms) and feel ashamed about seeking help, men frequently leave their depression untreated.
During my freshmen year, a close friend of mine expressed to me how he felt sadness for varying reasons, found himself lacking any motivation, had problems concentrating and was feeling helpless. I suggested to him that he speak with someone at CAPS, but he did not know what CAPS was and was skeptical as to how the office could help him. Moreover, he felt that his symptoms weren’t significant enough to seek the help of professionals and he believed that he could simply “handle it on his own.”
The stigma behind depression, the lack of education regarding depression, and the transparency of resources around campus continue to affect many students, specifically males. When depression goes untreated, students may see a significant drop in their academic performance, relationships can be strained, risky behaviors may increase and, at the most extreme, students may attempt suicide.
As a caring and close-knit community, the University needs to address this problem. Similarly to the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center on campus, CAPS should organize and conduct workshops for each incoming freshmen class. This can be done through required residential hall meetings at the start of each school year or during orientation sessions throughout the summer.
The workshops and presentations should focus on educating students on the causes and symptoms of depression, as well as the treatments and free resources available on campus. They should also divide groups of students by gender for a portion of the workshop to address gender-specific issues regarding depression. Specifically for our male students, it’s important to address the stigma behind depression in men and the varying symptoms that men can face.
With CAPS providing our students, specifically our male students, with awareness and education regarding depression, we hope to increase our students’ academic performance as well as increase their ability to flourish as well-rounded individuals graduating from the University. Equally as important, we hope to promote healthy physical and mental lifestyles here in our community.
Margaux Stanton is a Social Work graduate student