Stress Can Depress

(Graphic by Devin Wakefield)
(Graphic by Devin Wakefield)

College students are often overwhelmed by work or major life decisions, but that feeling can turn into something more serious.
Depression is one of the top mental health conditions in the United States, according to the National Institute of Health, and it is an issue many college students currently face. A 2011 study revealed that 30 percent of college students have been depressed to the point where they feel unable to function in day-to-day activities.
These issues are especially pertinent locally, as Utah ranks first nationwide for mental illnesses, according to Mental Health America. The study revealed that Utah lacks mental health resources available in other states, which may be a factor in the state’s high ranking.
One on-campus resource available for students dealing with these issues is the University Counseling Center on the fourth floor of the Student Services Building. According to the center’s 2012-2013 annual report, the top three reasons students seek counseling are depression, anxiety and stress.
Ben Hinrichs, a sophomore in physics, thinks most students face depression or anxiety, but many do not feel comfortable addressing it.
“I think it’s a tough issue, especially in college,” Hinrichs said. “We’re faced with so many decisions, and there’s all this pressure, and no one tells you that this pressure might cause you to feel chronically depressed, sad or anxious. So people don’t like talking about it, because they don’t think it’s normal or they think it’s not a big deal.”
Hinrichs has faced issues many college students go through, including the decision to major in something different than what his parents wanted.
“My parents don’t support my major,” he said. “But I had to figure out what I wanted to do without letting their opinions totally influence mine.”
Cindy Harling, the assistant clinical director at the University Counseling Center, said the purpose of the center is to provide not only mental health counseling services, but also preventative work and outreach. The center works with multiple departments across campus to provide services where they are needed.
“Our hope is to help students achieve academic success and provide them with a supportive place to talk about their needs,” Harling said. “We’re here to help students be happy, productive individuals.”
Harling also said a big stress for students is figuring out finances and choosing a career while taking note of a declining job market.
“Especially in the current economic times, I feel like I’ve seen more concern about the future than when I started here,” Harling said.
Elise Larsen, a junior in exercise and sport science, said finances in the present and future are a main stressor for her. Larsen works three jobs while in school in order to support herself and avoid taking out loans.
“Sometimes I can’t keep up with it all,” Larsen said. “I go to work, then class, then work again during the week and work my third job all weekend. Free time is pretty much non-existent in my life. But I have to do it because I don’t want to have to deal with struggling financially after I graduate.”
Larsen said she has never considered looking for resources to help alleviate her stress, but said if she had more time she might be more active in searching for them.
“It can be hard to get through the day when my whole life is school and work,” Larsen said. “I sort of feel like I’m going through the motions. I never thought about finding an advisor or counselor to help me along the way though. I honestly didn’t even know we had a counseling center.”
As a busy student, Larsen said she thinks stress, anxiety and depression are inevitable.
“It’s kind of impossible to not go through mental health issues when your schedule is so jam-packed,” she said. “I’ve accepted it as normal. After graduating, when my life can be focused on just my job and less on school, I think things will be better. For now, I’m just pushing through.”
Andrew Hunsaker, a pre-business freshman, said he knew the counseling center existed but has never used it.
“Honestly, I think the best people to help you with this stuff are your family and friends,” Hunsaker said. “I, personally, wouldn’t feel comfortable telling a stranger everything about my life and what I was worried about.”
Hunsaker said he takes care of his mental health with outdoors sports, especially skiing and climbing.
“We live in a beautiful state, and it’s easy to forget about your stresses when you really stop and look around,” he said. “I mean, of course I’m still figuring my life out, and that’s a hard thing, but I guess you just have to be grateful for what you do have and roll with that.”
The Center for Student Wellness, also located in the Student Services Building, provides wellness coaching and brochures on healthy living to any students interested. The center also offers wellness workshops on stress, sleep, healthy eating, exercise and weight management.
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