Student depression a serious issue

There’s a midterm tomorrow that I haven’t studied for. I’m graduating without a job or a future planned out. I have more than fifteen grand in OSAP debt. I work part time; my parents can’t afford to help me out. I have three assignments to do before the weekend is over, and I’m starting to realize that I might fail two of my courses and may not graduate at all.

Sound familiar?

It’s enough to get anyone feeling down in the dumps. As the pressure increases to obtain a degree and embellish your name with some sort of a title that indicates that you spent thousands to learn that the world is in a recession and your degree means little, students are developing depression at alarming rates.

Researchers at the Universities of Washington and Wisconsin in the U.S. and at the University of British Columbia administered surveys to 1,622 students who visited campus health centres. They found that 25 per cent of respondents disclosed signs of clinical depression, while one in ten had suicidal ideations in the previous two weeks.

It is a bit disconcerting to learn how high the rates of depression are in students, but really, is it that surprising? Coming to university without any real inclination as to what it would be like, besides the usual movies and television shows we were bombarded with growing up, it was a bit of a slap of reality when you began to get used to the pressures and stress brought on by the outcome-oriented lifestyles we all felt pushed to live. It can get overwhelming being away from your family, facing the world of debt and bills, while dealing with personal relationships and other issues.

It is quite clear that there are pressures on students these days that didn’t exist before. This doubling rate in depression statistics could be due to the unique qualities of the generation many of us are a part of: the Millenial children who started attending post-secondary institutions around 2000. With baby boomer parents, stricter upbringings give birth to increased demands to do well in university but also lack an openness to talk about psychological issues.

The worrisome statistics that indicate that one in four students have signs of clinical depression did give rise to a prevalent thought that universities are missing out on students that are showing signs of depression. Michael Fleming, professor at Northwestern University, believes that every student who walks into a health clinic should be screened for depression. Although they may be walking into a clinic for treatment of a headache, it could indeed be a physical manifestation of the depression they are currently suffering.

Although practices such as screening every student in the health clinic for depression may seem a little over the top, there are still practices that every university should participate in to make it well known that there is help out there. Training professors, dons and residence life leaders to recognize signs of depression in their students is a needed measure, along with increasing student groups focused on student wellness and expanding student programs to include courses on healthy living habits are all valid ideas to promote the idea that there is help available for students suffering depression.

As a student, I am well aware that there are enough anxieties put on students that can provide triggers for depression, which is why I do think the topic is one of serious consideration. Suicide is the second leading cause of death throughout the Canada for young people aged 10 to 24. It is well worth it to become aware of the triggers for depression, the health of yourself and your peers and to seek help when you feel signs of depression or start having harmful thoughts. There is help available and the best thing to remember is that you are not alone.

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