BYU students cope with depression

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    By Melanie Hallstrom

    The following article includes two students? first hand dealings with depression. Their last names are omitted at their request.

    Marie first noticed it in high school but was so busy she never stopped to really think about it. When she started college she could not deny the feeling that some people call ?blue.?

    For a few weeks every year, usually during the winter, Marie would feel down and overwhelmed with all the work she had to do and would struggle to even get out of bed. It was during her sophomore year that she decided to seek help.

    Marie, like some other students at BYU, suffers from depression. It is believed that depression affects 10 to 15 percent of college-aged students.

    ?Depression is one of the most commonly endorsed problems presented by students coming to the counseling center at BYU,? said Tyler Pedersen, assistant clinical professor and licensed psychologist. ?Of the last 16,000 people at the Counseling Center, depression was the third most commonly reported problem? behind academic problems and anxiety, which can be closely related to depression.

    ?There is quite a bit of overlap between anxiety and depression,? Pedersen said. ?We consider them separate, but they often coincide.?

    Marie realized that she had symptoms of both anxiety and depression.

    ?My depression is closely related to anxiety,? Marie said. ?I noticed it more with heavy work loads. There are always other factors that affect it. If there are enough stressful things going on, it tips it.?

    She realized her feelings of discouragement and anxiousness were not going away, which is typical of depression.

    ?The most common symptom is a lack of pleasure or joy,? Pedersen said. ?Also there is lethargy, an increase or decrease of sleep or appetite. All of these affect your ability to perform academically.?

    Marie noticed that she was struggling to get out of bed and have the energy to do the things she needed to.

    ?It?s almost like a break-up in that you don?t care anymore,? Marie said. ?You know you should get out and do things, but it?s hard to motivate yourself, but you have to go to classes.?

    She chose to go to the Health Center and was given prescriptions, samples of depression medication and information on depression.

    ?The fact that I finally dealt with it helps,? Marie said. ?I can prepare myself for the harder times because I know what time of year is harder for me. I deal with the situation before it happens.?

    While she chose to go to the Health Center, another option available to students is the free services at the Counseling Center in the Wilkinson Student Center.

    ?The Counseling Center provides individual psychotherapy and groups that address depression,? Pedersen said. ?We also work with the Health Center and have psychiatrists at the center several days a week. We do the whole range of treatments.?

    Steve, another student, had been struggling with feelings of depression but was unsure what to do about it.

    ?It felt like the lights went out,? Steve said. ?It?s different from feeling down. It?s constant and not really explicable. Everything you normally enjoy is kind of dimmer. It?s hard to find pleasure in life. You try to distract yourself and fight it, but you can?t ignore it or get rid of it on your own. It?s really overwhelming.?

    Steve said he noticed people often make comments about depression, such as ?get over it,? ?shake it off,? or ?it says in the scriptures that if you are righteous you will be happy, so you must be doing something wrong.?

    ?It?s hard for people to understand,? Steve said. ?It is a chemical problem. You can be doing everything right and still feel terrible.?

    Steve chose to seek treatment four months ago at the BYU Counseling Center, where students can schedule an appointment for a preliminary interview.

    During this first meeting, called an intake session, a counselor goes through a list of questions to determine whom each patient should meet with based on the nature of their problems. From there a student can meet with a counselor, a psychologist or a group.

    ?It has been better since going to the Counseling Center,? Steve said. ?It?s been educational. It helps you to really realize what the problem is, and how to treat it in the correct manner.?

    Pedersen said the most important thing someone who is struggling with symptoms of depression can do is to get help.

    ?You can get it through us, a physician or read about it and educate yourself,? Pedersen said. ?If they?re struggling to a point where it is affecting their life, such as getting out of bed or missing work, they probably should come see us.?

    With today?s National Depression Screening Day, professionals hope to attract individuals who would not normally come to the Counseling Center to pursue help.

    ?The most important thing you can do is get help,? Pedersen said. ?A combination of psychotherapy and medication is best for most people.?

    Pedersen said that in addition to counseling there are other things people can do to get help for depression.

    ?There are quite a few self-helps books available,? Pedersen said. ?We have on reserve in the library several books. There is also exercise, increased social life and prayer. For some people the way they think can be related, and there are books which can help them to reconsider they way they think.?

    Both Steve and Marie hope that people who do not suffer from depression will change the way they view it.

    ?It seems like people polarize depression,? Marie said. ?Either they cling to it or are in denial that they have it. I don?t think there are very many people in the middle. Even if you suffer with it, you are still a normal person. I don?t think people looking at me know that I?ve dealt with it or deal with it.?

    Steve said people don?t understand depression and often judge without knowing about it.

    ?I want people to know it?s a legitimate problem,? Steve said. ?People don?t choose to deal with this. It?s a chemical thing that needs to be treated in the proper way. You need to see a trained professional about it.?

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