Feeling sad? Worried? Fearful? Hyper?

You're not alone. Major depressive disorder affects 9.9 million American adults each year. Approximately 5% of those are college age students.

Persistent sadness, overwhelming helplessness, isolation, stress, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, or suicidal thoughts may be symptoms of undiagnosed depression or anxiety disorder.

Test Your Mood

It only takes minutes! Log on to Mental Health Screening. If you would like to discuss your results, please contact the Personal Counseling Office.

What Causes Depression?

Many factors set the stage for depression. Among the most important are your background, the skills and beliefs you use to cope with change, and any biological vulnerability you may have, including possible genetic predisposition, hormonal imbalances, or other serious physical problems.

The most common immediate cause of depression is the loss of personal worth and self-esteem. Frequently, this is brought on by external factors such as:

  • The breakup of a friendship or romantic relationship
  • Divorce or family separation
  • Death of a loved one
  • Academic stress
  • Financial stress

Loss of self-esteem and personal worth can also be caused by internal factors such as:

  • Unrealistic standards and assumptions
  • Lack of effective coping skills
  • Feeling that you are not getting enough love or support from parents or other important people

Are You Masking Depression?

Consider seeking professional support if you are:

  • Having difficulties with alcohol, drugs, tobacco, or food
  • Practicing unsafe sex or other forms of "sex with regrets"
  • Driving recklessly
  • Vandalizing property or stealing
  • Behaving in other ways that you believe --- or your friends tell you --- are unhealthy

You may be doing these things to mask underlying depression.

Professional Treatment for Depression

Getting help is a sign of strength, not weakness. With professional help, you can speed up your recovery and short-circuit relapses. "Toughing it out" alone is unnecessary and keeps you tied to old ideas.

Several kinds of treatment are available. Work with a counselor to decide which one, or combination, is best for you. Don't be reluctant to try different methods since it may take some time to find the best approach for you. Between 80 to 90 percent of all people with depression respond to treatment.

  • Psychotherapy - Several forms of talk therapy have been shown to be very helpful. Therapy may be short or long term and may focus on behavior, thinking, feeling, or some combination of the three. It might also involve interacting with a therapist by yourself or as part of a group.
  • Medication - Various prescription drugs are available that have proven to be of value in treating some types of depression. However, some have unpleasant side effects and you may need to try different types of anti-depressants. These drugs are always used under the supervision of a physician.

Remember you are not alone! In addition to the Personal Counseling Office, the following campus resources are available:

Helping Someone Who is Depressed

You aren't responsible for your friend's depression. You can't fix your friend's life or change his or her mood. Although you may be tempted, don't try to give advice or take charge. Just listen.

The following are several useful listening techniques:

  • Be supportive. Don't deny or minimize your friend's pain. Don't try to talk your friend out of any feelings or make judgmental comments about them.
  • Show that you care. Stay in touch and stay interested.
  • Be honest. If a friend's behavior or comments frighten you, say so. Don't try to be superficially cheerful, but do reassure your friend that this feeling is temporary and depression is treatable.
  • Know when to back off. If you start feeling angry or frustrated because your friend doesn't seem to be listening, explain that you need a time out and will continue the conversation later. You may find that short, periodic discussions work best.

If you believe your friend is denying having serious depression, you may want to speak with a counselor about how to proceed. And let your friend know you're concerned. Ask whether he or she feels depressed. Continue to ask questions that encourage frankness. Keep an open mind about how the person evaluates his or her situation and use the listening skills listed above.

Helping a Friend Who Is Suicidal

Use the listening skills described above, but don't back off. In addition:

  • Explain to your friend that you're concerned about the situation.
  • Find out if your friend has a specific plan for committing suicide and how far he or she has gone in carrying it out.
  • Get your friend professional help immediately. Contact the campus resources or local crisis center.
  • Make an agreement with the person that he or she will not attempt suicide while you're finding help.

Here are some things you should not do in possible suicidal situations:

  • Don't assume the situation will take care of itself.
  • Don't leave your friend alone.
  • Don't be sworn to secrecy.
  • Don't act shocked or surprised at what your friend says.
  • Don't challenge, dare or use verbal shock treatments.
  • Don't argue or debate moral issues.

Once the immediate crisis is over, encourage your friend to get follow-up care. Keep in mind that a quick recovery from suicidal feelings may be your friend's attempt to deny --- consciously or unconsciously --- the intensity of the depression, and that the suicidal feelings may return.

Trying to help someone who is suicidal can be scary. Consider getting professional advice and support for yourself. And remember that you are not responsible for the impossible --- you can encourage a friend to get professional help, but you cannot stop someone's intent on committing suicide.