Depression a serious concern for young adults and college students

Students can go to BYU’s Counseling and Psychological Services Center website to seek help if they are feeling depressed. (Natalie Bothwell)

Young adulthood and college life can prove hard for all students. But for some, depression makes it harder.

Oct. 8 is National Depression Screening Day. For the 25th year, BYU’s Counseling and Psychological Services Center will offer free screenings in the Wilkinson Student Center and the Cannon Center. Students can take a paper and pencil screening and discuss the results with a counselor. The event is from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. An online screening test is available for students now through the center’s website.

Thirty percent of college students across the country reported feeling “so depressed that it was difficult to function,” according to a 2011 survey conducted by the American College Health Association.

A survey conducted by Jonathan Cox, a counselor at the center and BYU student Devin Petersen found that BYU’s statistics are about the same. In a sample of 1,090 BYU students, 26.2 percent had possible symptoms of depression.

Cox said college and young adulthood is a particularly hard time and depression is a common concern at that age.

“Emerging adulthood is a time of a lot of stress, and a lot of that stress comes from moving away from home and becoming an adult and participating in the university where there are a lot of expectations,” Cox said. “There’s class expectations, social expectations and work expectations.”

Cox said while young adulthood is full of stressors, such as an increased workload and a new environment, it’s also when many people first get diagnosed with depression or other mental illnesses.

“It’s long been established in psychological research that many psychological disorders first show up in young adulthood,” Cox said.

Barbara Morrell, a psychologist working in the on-campus center, said many stresses of attending college, including social pressure, can contribute to discouragement and depression.

“Here at BYU there is a lot of social pressure, and a lot of perfectionism among students,” Morrell said.

Jackie Salisbury, a 19-year-old student at Taylor Andrews Academy of Hair Design in Orem, struggled with depression before moving to Provo this year. She said it started in high school when her work load got tough and her innate perfectionism, a trait which many BYU students also have, caused her to become depressed. Although she kept a strong face at school, she said would cry when she got home and only slept an average of three hours a night.

“I went to school and had the reputation of being the happiest person ever, and it’s like I put on a mask everyday,” Salisbury said. “I would wake up and go to school and be happy because I didn’t want anyone to feel the way I did.”

Salisbury kept much of what she was feeling to herself and that eventually caused her to need hospital care.

She had a five-day hospital trip most recently in April. She also said she would rather die than get a bad grade in school, but some advice from her dad made her realize she needed to make a change.

“He told me that no grade is greater than my life,” Salisbury said. “That is when I realized I needed to chill and not stress out about grades so much. I wanted to be perfect at everything, but I had to realize that I can’t be.”

Since moving to Provo and starting hair school, Salisbury says she has been less focused on getting perfect grades and more focused on serving her clients and making them feel happy.

For BYU students struggling with depression, Cox and Morrell gave many options for help.

The center offers students many services, including one-on-one counseling and group therapy sessions. The University Accessibility Center is another great service that helps students who have already been diagnosed with a mental illness receive accommodations in the classroom.

The National Association of Mental Illness is a club at BYU that offers support groups to those who are dealing with mental illness or a have a loved one that is dealing with a mental illness.

Cox made it clear that students who have depression should not isolate themselves or keep the way they are feeling a secret.

“Make sure you’re involving yourself in your social support groups,” Cox said. “It’s much easier to deal with if it’s not kept a secret.”

Cox said students can also meet with a physician or psychiatrist off campus for possible pharmacological intervention.

Morrell explained that there are different types of treatment for everyone.

Graph showing depression rates for different populations.  (Jessica Olsen)
This graph shows percentages of people who suffer from depression in different populations. Data is  from the American College Health Association. 
(Jessica Olsen)

“Sometimes people come out of depression naturally over time,” Morrell said. “However, some people experience clinical depression for months or years, and counseling and also medication can be helpful.”

Salisbury’s biggest advice to other young adults in her position is to rely on their savior.

“I prayed all the time and the savior was always in my thoughts,” Salisbury said. “I definitely felt his hand in my life.”

She explained that she believes the savior put trials in people’s lives for a reason, and that he would not take depression out of her life.

“I think I have a deeper understanding for those who have it today, and it has made me more compassionate and loving to those who have it,” Salisbury said. “I am grateful for that trial.”

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