Keeping an eye out for depression

Summer edition of The Hullabaloo is out!

Check out my latest article for the new incoming freshmen at Tulane University.

Leaving home for the first time and going to college is an exciting and monumental life event. At Tulane, students will meet new people from all over the country while living in one of the most unique and fun cities in the country. This also may be the first time you are living independently from your parents without any curfews or house rules. College life is full of excitement, and you are bound to have a great time.

Going to college, however, can also be overwhelming. Students are suddenly thrown into a new social scene and must develop relationships with a whole new set of peers. They may be living hours from home without the safe family structure and support system that they have had their entire life, all while dealing with the stress of college courses and seriously deciding on a career plan. Though it may feel great to assert some independence, many students are going to get homesick and yearn for a visit to their family for a home-cooked meal.

So after the excitement of orientation and moving into that new dorm starts to wear down, don’t be surprised if you start to feel a little down. You must realize, however, that you are not alone. In fact, a new study released this year in the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry shows that one-quarter of college students accessing university primary care health centers screen positive for depression. Perhaps more alarmingly, approximately 10 percent of those surveyed had suicidal thoughts at some point in college. If these numbers sound large, it’s because they are. Within the past decade, depression and anxiety rates have risen on college campuses with more students seeking help for emotional distress than ever before. According to the American Psychological Association, the number of students on psychiatric medications has increased more than 10 percent in the past 10 years.

Though it is normal to occasionally feel sad, anxious or lonely, it is important to differentiate these normal feelings from symptoms of depression. Depression is a medical illness that can cause a deep feeling of sadness or marked loss of interest or pleasure in activities that you usually enjoy. Other symptoms include changes in appetite with weight loss or gain; insomnia or oversleeping; loss of energy; restlessness or irritability; feelings of worthlessness or guilt; difficulty concentrating; and thoughts of death or suicide. If you start to experience these feelings, it is time to seek help.

Tulane University offers several resources for those suffering from feelings of depression, as well as other mental illnesses. Tulane Student Heath Center Mental Health Services offers the services of both psychiatrists and therapists. Its website has several links for information on mental illness, including an online screening for depression, alcohol and eating disorders. The Center for Educational Resources and Counseling is a division of Student Affairs and is another resource that offers therapy services to students.

In addition to the many services available to help students dealing with depression, there are also several steps that you can take as preventive measures to avoid feelings of depression. A study by the American Psychological Association concluded that exercise is protective against the development of depression in college students. Luckily, at Tulane, we have the Reily Recreation Center, which offers a wide variety of fitness instruction and classes. Becoming socially engaged and avoiding isolation is another way to boost your mood and prevent depression. It’s important to join clubs, become involved in the community and create a new social network of friends that can serve as your support system away from home.


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