Depression issues tackled in workshop
A Counseling and Psychological Services workshop on Wednesday increased depression awareness by offering students information on the illness and the resources for treatment that are available on campus.
“Depression is one of the more common mental health problems, and it is very treatable,” said Lucy Phillips, a CAPS practicum therapist who led the workshop, which was held in the Student Services Center.
The University of Michigan Depression Center says the peak onset of depression and other psychiatric disorders is between 15 and 24, with as many as 15 percent of college students reporting symptoms of depression.
Though depression is often perceived as merely sadness, Phillips said there is a distinction between general sadness and actual depression.
“Most of us do feel a bit down occasionally, but these feelings might not last very long,” said Phillips. “In any case we usually know we’ll feel better in a day or so.”
Feelings of sadness are mostly fleeting, while symptoms of depressive disorders are usually long-lasting and increasingly difficult to manage in daily life.
Phillips said these feelings often affect other areas such as grades and attendance in school, relationships, an increased use of drugs and alcohol, and problems controlling behavior.
Other symptoms of depression include feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, withdrawal from normal activities, loss of pleasure and enjoyment, changes in appetite and sleeping habits, fatigue, poor concentration and feeling worthless.
Phillips said that people from different cultures might express their depressive symptoms in different ways, or cite some symptoms over others.
There is not one specific cause for depression, but many possible causes as sufferers cope with multiple pressures and stressful situations such as the loss of a loved one, major life changes, health problems, school and financial stress.
Depression can also be caused by genetics and biochemical imbalances in the brain, including the neurotransmitters serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine, which are often the target of medications used to treat depressive disorders.
The presentation also touched on bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive disorder, which is characterized by major swings between emotional high points and low points. This point hit home for sophomore human development and family studies major Andre Adourian, who said the manic symptoms described one of his friends to the letter.
“It makes a lot more sense, because before, I thought maybe he was just emotional, like minor things affected him,” Adourian said. “I didn’t realize it could be something as serious as depression or bipolar disorder.”
Society’s view of the illness may prevent many sufferers from getting treatment. Phillips said that 54 percent of people believe depression is a personal weakness.
Adourian encouraged others to promote awareness and reduce the stigma of mental health issues.
“I think we should have public service announcements and more information available about this kind of stuff if it’s getting to that severity,” Adourian said, citing the large numbers in America.
“ When something’s accepted, it’s easier to get help because there’s less stigma on it,” he said.
“By accepting something, you’re making it easier and better for everyone to obtain treatment, so I’m a huge advocate.”
Leaving depression untreated can have devastating consequences, including suicide and attempted suicide.
“In the past 15 years depression has doubled and suicide has tripled,” Phillips said. “By 2020 suicide will be the second-largest killer in the US next to heart disease.”
According to the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, suicide is the third leading cause of death in people ages 15 to 24.
It is suggested that students suffering from symptoms of depression address their issues, whether it means talking to a trusted friend or family member, or seeking professional help.
Many self-help mechanisms can also be effective at reducing negative moods, including sleeping and eating well, journaling, exercising and making a list of pleasurable activities to schedule throughout the week.
CAPS offers a wide range of services that include individual, couple and group counseling.
“There are many different types of therapy that do effectively treat depression, and each individual therapy offers special advantages,” Phillips said. “It is important for therapists to tailor the therapy to the client.”
Students can utilize the individual counseling services free of charge for up to 10 visits per academic year, while group therapy is offered for free for an unlimited number of visits.
Phillips said though there is no single best type of therapy, 80 percent of those who do seek treatment report significant improvement in their condition.
CAPS will be taking part in National Depression Screening Day today, and will be offering free depression screenings, food and drinks from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the UC Arbor, offering students an opportunity to learn more and address concerns with professional therapists.
Next week’s Food for Thought Workshop will address financial stress and ways to cope.