Depression is a mental illness, but it’s also the most treatable—it’s sometimes referred to as the “common cold of mental illnesses.” Many people who are depressed force themselves to function normally—they just don’t feel right. And depression is more common than you may think here on campus. In a 2010 survey, 24% of Bentley students reported feeling so depressed it was difficult to function at some point during their time here.
I sat down with Stephanie Kendall, a psychologist in the Counseling and Student Development office at Bentley, to talk about depression and National Depression Screening Day, an event happening on campus this week, sponsored by the Bentley Develop U Peer Educators.
Symptoms of Depression
If you exhibit 5 or more of the following symptoms every day for 2 weeks, you could be depressed.
-Depressed, sad, or blue mood most of the day, nearly every day
-Loss of interest or pleasure in all or almost all activities
-Significant change in weight, or change in appetite
-Changes in sleep—too much or too little
-Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day
-Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt nearly every day
-Reduced ability to concentrate, think, or make decisions
-Recurrent thoughts of death, recurrent thoughts of suicide without a plan, or plans for suicide or a suicide attempt
-Depressed/irritable mood or loss of interest/pleasure
It can be scary to ask for help, but it’s more important to take care of yourself and know your body, both mentally and physically. Just because you’re able to keep going doesn’t mean you’re okay.
Women and Depression
Women are twice more likely to develop depression than men. Why? The first reason is biological—the hormonal changes we go through during puberty differ from that of men. Women also have less economic and social power, and face more discrimination—these factors increase our stress level, which over time can lead to increased rates of depression.
We are also socialized to think differently—how many times have you overanalyzed a situation with a friend or a guy? We all do it, and yet guys never seem to. They are socialized to take action and fix things, while we ruminate, or think things through, in our minds. Neither method is always successful in “fixing” a situation, but taking an active rather than a passive approach generally results in less depressive feelings.
National Depression Screening Day
So what IS National Depression Screening Day, and why are we talking about it? Stephanie told me that, “Its purpose is to offer information about depression to the community, and to show that depression is real and treatable. It offers students the opportunity to have a free, confidential, and quick survey to determine if they’re depressed.”
This year, National Depression Screening Day is split up into two sessions. On Tuesday, October 2nd from 5pm to 7:30pm, The Bentley Peer Educators will be manning a table outside of Seasons. They are a dedicated group of Bentley undergraduate students who work to educate their fellow students about mental health issues, and how to get help if it’s needed. At their table, you can learn about depression as well as happiness. There will be a fun quiz to take, and prizes to win!
On Wednesday, October 3rd, from 11am to 2:15pm in the Lower Caf, staff from the Counseling Center will be holding free, quick depression screenings. If you’re not sure if you’re depressed, you can get an answer in 10 to 15 minutes from a counselor. Your name will not be attached to the screening, and the papers are destroyed after the session.
When to Get Help and How to Help Others
If you have a gut instinct that tells you that you may need help, it’s time to ask for it. You may have tried to do things to feel better that haven’t really helped. If you have a friend who you think may be depressed, it’s important to let them know that it’s okay to need help, and to feel uncertain about asking for it.
It can be hard to approach a friend about an issue like this. I asked Stephanie to give an example of how you could broach the topic: “You could say: ‘I’ve noticed over the past few weeks that you haven’t really seemed like yourself. You’ve seemed down and detached. I care about you and want to help you feel better, and I think the Counseling office could really help you.’”
Resources on Campus
If you are depressed or think you may be, there are resources on campus for you. Counseling is free and confidential, and a lot more students utilize it than you may think. In the 2010-2011 school year, more than 500 students were seen by someone in the Counseling office.
If you’re feeling stressed or anxious, there are ways to combat that as well. Both Spiritual Life and the Center for Health and Wellness are resources to go to. Stephanie also recommended moderate exercise (3 times a week, for 30-60 minutes), to alleviate stress.
To sum it up…
It’s just like High School Musical said—we’re all in this together! We need to support each other, and build strong and healthy friendships. It’s important that we de-stigmatize counseling and depression simply by talking about it. Depression is really common, and being depressed does not make you weird—it’s all about being able to react and help yourself. Be assertive about your health and ask for help when you need it. You’ll find helping hands all around you—in friends, parents, siblings, mentors, and counselors.