Depression in students – do we overlook it?

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Depression does not just refer to a person who is feeling low. It is a diagnosable mental health condition that occurs when the balance in someone’s brain chemistry becomes slightly uneven. This can have many causes: bereavement, stress, high consumption of drugs and alcohol… some people are even just genetically prone to it. If left untreated, depression can become very serious, leading to self harm or in some cases suicide.

The typical lifestyle of a student: poor diet, lack of sleep, academic pressure, and stresses like financial and relationship worries can actually leave the student brain vulnerable to depression. But, due to age, many young people can showing signs of depression can be ignored, or accused of “attention seeking” behaviours. This however is not helpful, depression can affect any person, young or old, and people showing signs may not be able to “snap out of it”, and may require genuine help.

I interviewed a student friend of mine at a different university who has recently suffered from an episode of depression regarding their thoughts on whether or not depression is overlooked in young people: “I think the main thing that people don’t understand is that depression, and other mental illness’, are like physical illnesses. It’s important to recognise it as a biological problem that has symptoms (which can be potentially debilitating) and needs to be addressed and treated to keep it under control or nip it in the bud. It’s not the same as feeling a bit down in a tough situation; it can last for months at a time and people suffering often struggle getting out of bed in the morning. Most people are not aware of how bad it can be, and making comments like ‘you just need to be more positive’, do not help. People suffering need access to the help that’s right for them. Personally I sought counselling, and, whilst I do sometimes feel myself returning to that place, I know that I am strong enough to cope.”

Some symptoms are depression are: constant feelings of melancholy, lack of interest or enjoyment of life, changes to appetite, frequent disturbance of sleep pattern, low self esteem, finding it difficult to make decisions, lack of energy or motivation, feeling anxious or worried and having thoughts of self harm or suicide.

Depression needs to be nipped in the bud, before it seriously affects your studies or in more extreme cases; your life. If you or one of your flatmates are showing two or more of the above symptoms it may be worth checking it out.

For information and help on how to recognise and seek help for depression visit: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Depression/Pages/Treatment.aspx

If you are feeling low and need someone anonymous to talk to, phone Lancaster University’s Nightline Counselling service on 01524 594 444 (open 10pm – 8pm)

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