Depression and suicide is plaguing college campuses. According to the National College Health Assessment, 40.2 percent of college students are suffering from depression, and 11.5 percent of college students have thought about suicide. With the constant pressures of rigorous school work and working multiple jobs to pay off student loans, it is truly not all surprising that students are succumbing to the stress.
It is in our best interest at USF to do everything possible to help students feel as though they deserve to stay alive.
I struggle with depression and anxiety, and I have thought about ending my life. I understand how it feels.
However, I had friends and family who were there to help me get through the hopelessness that I was feeling. It truly meant the world. They would check up on me everyday and force me to get out of the house and be productive. Sure enough, these checkups slowly helped me get out of my funk. Having a strong support system is what saved my life. Of course, getting over suicidal thoughts is not as simple as having a strong support system, but it definitely helps.
We must first acknowledge that we can only help people help themselves. It is a choice to take steps towards recovery — a choice that nobody else can make for you. At my lowest point, I felt comfortable feeling hollow and hopeless, and it took awhile for me to realize that I did not need to go about my life feeling empty every day. Living life in a depressed fog is no way to live, but making the effort to change the way that you feel is ultimately only up to the person who is depressed.
The little things help. Cleaning the house, working out or simply talking about what was on my mind with those around me made a difference almost immediately. Recovery is not about making a huge change all at once –– it’s about making small changes gradually. Nothing makes depression disappear overnight; recovery is a long and worthy process. Doing small things to take care of myself helped keep me above water.
On a larger scale, we need to erase the stigma of receiving help and let people show and share their emotions freely. It’s OK to go therapy and it’s OK to receive medication. It doesn’t make you weak or whiny — it makes you responsible. For the longest time, I felt as though going to therapy would simply make me even more crazy than I already felt. I thought that it would be the stereotypical conversation with a stuffy doctor asking me, “And how did that make you feel?” To me, I didn’t think that it would help in any way. However, once I got over my fears and went to a therapist, I realized that it would genuinely help me. I thought therapy would be me talking to someone for an hour or two and feeling as though I got nothing out of it, but it was quite the contrary. After each session, I felt like I was being listened to, despite how petty my problems may have seemed to me. It took awhile for me to get to the root of my mental illness, but once we delved in deep, I came out of my sessions with coping mechanisms and means to constructively help those going through similar situations as me.
I learned that I don’t need to feel guilty for being depressed and that my mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of.
While it took some time to find a therapist who worked well with my personality, being able to talk to someone who was not family or a friend truly made the difference. I was no longer afraid to tell my therapist about what was truly going on in my mind; I knew that the only thing they wanted to do was to help me and that anything I said would not leave the room.
When it came to being medicated, I had a horrible fear that it would only perpetuate my perception that I was seriously disturbed. Whenever my therapist would recommend going on medication, I would simply block her out. It was only when my therapist spoke to my mom in hopes of having her talk me into a trial run with medication that I gave it a chance. While medication is certainly not for everyone, I found that what my psychiatrist had prescribed me worked almost immediately. I still have some bad days, but being able to have something that helps to rebalance the serotonin in my brain has worked wonders.
As a fairly small community in the heart of San Francisco, there is a lot that we at USF can do to help students who may be feeling suicidal.
We need to take extra steps to check up on our friends and classmates. While it may seem tedious to stop a friend to see how they’re doing, it can make the difference between your friend staying alive and them ending their life. We should be on the lookout for of any of the warning signs of suicidal behavior, increased substance abuse and isolation from those around us.
Doing the bare minimum and being there for our peers can save someone’s life.
Having a place for students to visit professionals on short notice for help is vital. Talking through one’s feelings can be the key to avoid eventual crises. For students seeking immediate help on campus when they are feeling suicidal or struggling with another mental health issue (or simply need someone to talk to about the stresses of everyday life), Counseling and Psychological Services on campus is available for students to access. Each student at USF gets 12 free sessions with a CAPS professional.
I am still struggling with depression and anxiety, but talking things through with a professional, being medicated and having friends and family there for me on bad days help me keep my life going.