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Combating Depression In College: How and Where to Get Help

Each year, thousands of students make the transition into college life. This time means new friends, new surroundings, a work load far more challenging than high school, and a swift detachment from all aspects of home life that previously made up a daily routine.

For many students, adjusting to college life can be difficult. In the past five years or so, there has been an increase in anxiety and depression on college campuses, said Jeri Boliek, the Triage Coordinator at the University of Maryland’s Mental Health Service.

The American College Health Association released its National College Health Assessment in Spring 2013, including information about the physical, sexual, and mental wellbeing of a sample of 96,911 undergraduate students from 153 schools throughout the country.

According to the assessment, 49.6 percent of students, both male and female, reported feeling overwhelmed by all they had to do sometime in the two weeks leading up to taking the survey. 15.2 percent of students reported feeling so depressed it was difficult to function in the past 12 months, and 5 percent reported seriously considering suicide in the past 12 months.

The issues of suicide and depression remain pertinent ones on campuses throughout the country, and universities are responding with more and more options for students to turn to when it comes to counseling and mental health.

“College is an intense time,” said Boliek. Students are away from home, no longer immersed in their usual routine, and suddenly they have to make decisions for themselves unlike any other time in their life.

Boliek said that the changes that college brings, including different sleeping and eating habits, relationship issues, and potential social isolation, can lead students to experience serious stress and anxiety, which, when felt over a long period of time, can lead to depression.

Many college students who experience feelings of depression do not know where to turn, feeling far away from their regular support system and afraid to seek help due to fear of being labeled as “crazy or weird,” said Boliek.

It is natural to feel stressed and overwhelmed in college, but what is important is that those feelings do not develop into something more serious, which is why universities are responding with programs and resources to help students dealing with issues spanning from short-term anxiety to depression.

As Triage Coordinator, Boliek is available for students to come in with emergencies, such as those with serious thoughts of suicide. The position was added to the Mental Health Service in February 2011 to combat the increasing number of students who were coming in and requiring immediate assistance without an appointment.

The Mental Health Department also works to spread to word to faculty and students about how to identify someone who is in trouble and may be depressed or considering suicide.

Among other resources for students seeking help are the Counseling Center, which allows walk-ins and appointments and is free for students, the Center for Healthy Families in the School of Public Health, and the Psychology Clinic in the Biology-Psychology building.

Students can use any of those resources to seek out therapy, said Boliek, but the best options for a student experiencing a crisis are the Counseling Center and the Mental Health Service.

The University of Maryland, according to Boliek, sees an average of one suicide per year, tragedies that the university is continuing to work to prevent.

“We’re always working on how to get the information out there,” said Boliek. “Talking to somebody is one of the best things to help.” 

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