Depression, mental illness a reality for many college students


College is a stressful time for students nationwide. Staying up too late. Sleeping too long. The press of daily classes and tests. Working to pay tuition. Applying for student loans.  Juggling social priorities.

The daily wear grind can make life seem overwhelming at times and sometimes leads to depression. McKay Curriden, a Utah Valley University student, has dealt with these feelings of sadness and despair while at school.

“I do manage it (depression), but it’s still a battle,” Curriden said.

While depression has become a more prevalent subject in society there still is a lot of misinformation and lack of understanding about it. Especially for those who are among the highest at risk for it: college students.

Recent research shows more than 25 percent of college students will suffer from some sort of mental illness, including depression. The majority of these students won’t seek help for their illness, and instead will try to face it alone.

“It’s sort of a pride issue where the individual feels like ‘well I can do this myself’ and I think that notion is understandable because most of us want to see ourselves as capable of handling our own issues or difficulties,” said Dr. Steve Smith the Director of Counseling and Career Center at BYU.

The cause of depression is a complex issue and is unique for every individual. The simple answer is depression is caused by chemical imbalances in the brain. These imbalances can come from a variety of sources. Anything from stressful life moments, family genetics or losing a loved one have an influence on these chemicals.

This makes treating the illness difficult. Because even though two individuals may have similar symptoms, the cause of their illness could be entirely different. Thus leading to a unique treatment needed for each person.

“What helps me is to try to make sure I have every minute of every day full,” Curriden said. “When you stop there’s a void and depression fills that.”

The need for a unique treatment for each individual has lead to an increase in visits to school mental health clinics nationwide. This increase in students has led to many school clinics being backed up and not able to deal with everyone in need right away. However, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The increase in visits from students shows the changing social stigmas surrounding depression.

“I’m always glad when somebody who is struggling turns to counseling and psychological services and believes that we can be helpful and help them overcome their struggles,” said Smith.

Depression can have a large negative impact on students. But they don’t need to face it alone. (Photo illustration by Chris Bunker)

“I think traditionally there’s been a stigma attached to seeking help for mental health problems,” said Smith. “But I also think that people have a lot of different resources they can turn to, family, friends, religious leaders. So people tend to seek out those types of resources before they turn to mental health professionals.”

Because the majority of individuals don’t seek professional help it’s important for people without depression to know how to help those who do. Some of the most important things to know is how to listen and show support.

“Try to engage them, always invite them out to stuff,” said Curriden. “Don’t force them, just let them know they can rely on you.”

It’s also important to help them see the importance of receiving help from a professional source.

“Ask them about why they’re reluctant to seek help. Ask that question directly and help them to overcome some of their own personal stigma of receiving that help,” said Smith. “Talk to them directly about it and encourage them to seek help and then go with them to sign up for it.”

While depression is a difficult issue to face, especially for busy college students. There are plenty of resources to help those in need.

Authors Note: Depression and anxiety are serious illnesses but they are treatable. If you feel you have these illnesses or would like more information please visit

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