Combating Depression

Shabina Khatri
Photo Illustration by NICK AZZARO/Daily
Most serious mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia surface between the years of 18 and 24, Psychology Prof. Susan Nolen-Hoeksema said.

By Victoria Edwards

Daily Staff Reporter

Last Sunday a female student at Alice Lloyd residence hall took desperate measures against depression when she swallowed 25 anti-depressant pills and was rushed to the University of Michigan emergency room.

But many ways to alleviate such depression exist. Psychology Prof. at the University Susan Nolen-Hoeksema said several factors cause depression to emerge during the college years.

“The stress of being away from the social support system of the family and friends triggers depression in people. This is especially true if they have a vulnerability to it,” Nolen-Hoeksema said. “People with bouts of depression as teens especially, are likely to get depressed in college.”

She added that most serious mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia surface between the years of 18 and 24. This increased likelihood of mental illness can result from genetic predisposition coupled with the stress of college, as well as having to find a new social support network.

An LSA sophomore who wished to remain anonymous said that she considered suicide last November when her friends distanced themselves from her just as she was facing an overwhelming school schedule.

“The broken social circle was a huge factor in the depression, but it also dealt with classes – they were very hard. … I was working at the cafeteria as well, which was a physically demanding job for me. Other things that factored into the depression were that I didn’t value myself. When something bad happened I’d always blame myself. And my friends made me feel worthless,” the sophomore said.

She said it got to the point that she was crying every day. She said she was constantly angry with herself and her friends.

“When I woke up in the morning I would just want to go back to sleep. Every day was a freaking ordeal,” the sophomore said.

She said it was at that point that she just wanted to do something destructive to herself.

“I was thinking about slitting my wrists or jumping off the roof of my dorm. That is when I decided to seek counseling at (Counseling and Psychological Services) at the union,” the sophomore said.

CAPS is a counseling center that is run exclusively for University students. CAPS director Todd Sevig said that because the staff only interacts with students they know their life cycles well. They can empathize with what it is like to graduate and go back home. As a result they feel that their counseling – intensely focused on the student demographic is unique – he said.

“The overall mission is to support students in their emotional lives and try to help them in the academic process. And at the same time trying to help them be emotionally healthy, and maintain good relationships with others, to manage the stress of being a college student,” Sevig said.

The sophomore said that when she went to CAPS for the first time, she completed an evaluation answering different questions and was eventually paired with a counselor.

“I thought seeking help was bad,” she said. “I thought I would be admitting that I was crazy. But it was better to get help than loose everything and kill myself,” the sophomore said.

She said asking for help and admitting she had a problem was the first step in addressing and eventually overcoming her depression.

“If you are depressed, talk to someone. Talk to your friends, tell them how are feeling. At least try to get some form of help – you can’t deal with it yourself. I thought I could, and I was dead wrong on that fact,” the sophomore added.

Sevig said CAPS operates on both a walk-in and appointment basis. At the initial session, a student can talk to a counselor, and set goals for the sessions. The duration of the counseling depends on the situation.

Besides CAPS, other counseling services on campus help students deal with both everyday stress and traumatic events that can occur. A senior that chooses to remain anonymous said that she went to the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center for counseling after being raped while vacationing in Greece.

The counseling “was much more comforting than anything else. I felt everyone was well qualified at the counseling service but I didn’t think the therapy was my personal approach. It was very standard, it seemed like a very repetitive procedure for them rather than as if they understood you,” said the senior.

She added that it takes someone who has been in the situation to really understand what the person is going through.

LSA senior Erica Tepper, who has used University counseling services, said although there may be drawbacks to the counseling, its availability is a benefit. She added that there are many free counseling resources offered at the University, but she does not feel they are not promoted enough.

“I don’t think students know about (CAPS). But it is there, and it should be more well known to the student body. I had no idea CAPS existed until the beginning of the year, until I was referred to it,” LSA senior Mike MacVay said.

MacVay said CAPS and other counseling services should be as well known on campus as the University Health Service. UHS takes care of the physical well being of the student while counseling provides for the mental well being.

“Depression is one thing we can treat through medication and psychotherapy. It is very effective,” Nolen-Hoeksema said. “We can and should seek out treatment and psychotherapy. There is a range of treatment which has such an effectiveness to mean that people don’t have to suffer this on their own.”

The number for CAPS is (734) 764-8312, and the number for SAPAC is (734) 936-3333. The number for the U of M Psychological Clinic is (734) 764-9190.

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