Student Depression and Anxiety

The 21st century has seen the most rapid increase in development such as transportation, telecommunication, automobiles, refrigerators and many other forms of technology. It has made our lives not just easier but sufficiently tolerable, however in tandem with this development came the physical and intangible difficulties such as poverty, inflation, anxiety, depression, health issues, and dilemmas. The physical issues are taken seriously and therefore also dealt with effectively whereas intangible problems are taken non-seriously and hence are left uncatered. Having a non-serious attitude towards such non-physical problems creates further difficulties. The psychological issues for example depression and anxiety are of greater and graver concern which is being neglected. The essay focuses on depression prevailing among college students, and emphasizes on its lack of awareness and then recommending solutions to solve this unattended problem.

In today’s fast paced society, it is pretty normal to feel down. People are stressed more than ever. Depression is a severe disorder and often goes undetected. If it progresses it starts affecting the physical health and social life of a person. Clinical depression or in simple words major depression is far more than just sad feelings. It does not strike all at once, it is a gradual process, the person gradually withdraws from his/her loved ones, favorite activities or hobbies, and normal active life. People are affected by it either directly or indirectly. Depression is confusing because one cannot tell what depression exactly is and what makes it different from just a normal sad feeling or being blue. When the sadness stays consistent from days to weeks to months it is then when one can call it a depression.

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Although depression is more apparent in females, men too are hit hard by depression. Nowadays, just as the enrollment of students in colleges and universities have increased, the depression among these students have also increased. The causes vary from student to student. However, it is not easy to escape from this problem (Kieth, Tiana).

Most colleges and universities, especially the elite ones have adopted the modern concept of co-education. Therefore, it is crucial to address the distinction of symptoms in both sexes. The depressive symptoms are more common in females than in their counterparts.  There is a ten percent higher chance of experiencing depressive symptoms in females, with an average of 50 percent of women reported to have difficulty working in routine activities (Keith, Tiana). Men do not recognize their depressed state whereas women do. Women are able to describe their feelings. Men turn to drink heavily and illegal drugs before the onset of depression whereas women turn to alcohol and drugs after the onset of depression. Men usually tend to hide their depression by engaging in activities like sports and risky behaviors like reckless driving and unsafe sex and gambling. Women often cry for no reasons, think deeply about things and self-talk negatively whereas men show angry outbursts and frustration even on small matters. Women are prone to develop depression by stressful life events such as a death in a family and this stress goes on for a longer period as compared to men. This may happen because of biological reasons. It is difficult to identify a man having depression as compared to a woman. So, when it finally gets identified in men it has already gotten severe. Lastly, men are more successful than women when committing suicide (Nierenberg, Cari).

Differences between male and female depression
Women tend to: Men tend to:
Blame themselves Blame others
Feel sad, apathetic, and worthless Feel angry, irritable, and ego inflated
Feel anxious and scared Feel suspicious and guarded
Avoid conflicts at all costs Create conflicts
Feel slowed down and nervous Feel restless and agitated
Have trouble setting boundaries Need to feel in control at all costs
Find it easy to talk about self-doubt and despair Find it “weak” to admit self-doubt or despair
Use food, friends, and “love” to self-medicate Use alcohol, TV, sports, and sex to self-medicate

It is natural to feel sad, lonely and depressed sometimes, especially as a reaction to the struggles of life, loss of a friend, a family member and peer pressure but when this sadness, anxiety, and stress start affecting your physical health and continue to stay for longer period then it is a matter of grave concern and help should be sought out. It is quite difficult to recognize the symptoms of depression; however, it will be relatively easy to detect a student who is depressed if we know the very symptoms of depression. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the symptoms of depression are feelings of hopelessness, lack of energy, unable to concentrate, incapable of making decisions, loss of interest in activities and hobbies, irritability, insomnia, rebellious behavior, overeating or appetite loss, memory loss, excessive or inappropriate guilt, persistent headaches and cramps and thoughts of suicide (Symptoms of Depression).

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The most interesting phase of life that is college/university life, which is supposed to be free of domestic and other responsibilities and seemingly happier yet becomes the worst phase of life when winds of unwanted influences start pushing one backward. Academic pressure, parental discord, financial crisis, romantic relationships, bullying, physical violence and physical harassment are the reasons for student depression.

The most prevalent root which students find hard to cope with is academic pressure and stress. The direct relationship between academic pressure and depression has been evident. The more academic pressure, the more you are depressed.  However, one can see the inverse relationship between academic performance and depression. The more you are sad and stressful, the lower the performance level.  The overwhelming number of assignments and quizzes tense the students and so they lose control of things. This has happened partly because the primary target of students has shifted from learning to getting good grades and partly because of the rigorous education policies of the institutions. The elite universities expect a lot more from their students and so they fail to recognize the pressure this puts on their students. Students who reside in hostels are easily targeted by this factor because being away from home and managing the new phase of life all alone is quite a task. Therefore, this pressure results in lower grades, poor attendance, and drop outs. These results further worsen the situation because at this devastating situation students are inclined towards ending their life.

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More often the medical students are more inclined to depression than their non-medical peers, however, it varies from university to university. Likewise, freshmen college students are relatively more depressed as compared to senior students because for freshmen the environment is totally new and challenging even more. The research has shown that 27% of medical students had depression or symptoms of it, and 11% reported suicidal thoughts during medical school. Almost 200 studies of 129,000 medical students in 47 countries were analyzed for the research (Oaklander, Mandy).

Along with academic pressure, parental pressure also adds to the already numerous factors of student depression. The parents pressurize their children so much into focusing on their studies that they forbid them from every extracurricular activity. This consistent thought of parental pressure and fear worry students throughout, which leads to poor academic performance. Several cases have been reported where students committed suicide just because of this parental pressure. A 17-year-old swallowed poison when his parents scolded him to stop spending time with friends and to concentrate on his studies (Ebrahim, Zofeen T).

Even romantic relationships unsurprisingly highly widespread in college life play a crucial part in students struggling with depression. The failure of such relationships highly dishearten students which adversely affect their academic performance. Female students are hit harder by this factor because they tend to be more emotional and are usually committed sincerely and blindly to this bond than their counterparts.

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Likewise, bullying has been reported to be one of the major causes of student depression. This is a common trend in colleges and universities where students bully their fellow students. Sometimes the students who are bullying are themselves unaware of the gravity of the situation they put another student being bullied into. Unfortunately, no matter to what extent technology has helped us it has also aided activities like bullying. In 2012, a student at Rutgers University killed himself because his roommate revealed his homosexuality on social networks and invited his friends on social networks to watch his video with his boyfriend (Bullying in college). The psychological effects of bullying on students have an unending impact. The victims of consistent bullying suffer depression and anxiety that goes well beyond the bullying years and the suffering goes on in their adult lives. This makes eating, sleeping, working and exercising difficult and it also makes it harder for them to keep relationships (Steele, Ann). Therefore, a strict measure must be taken by colleges and universities against bullying in order to prevent it.

Bullying can also lead to sexual harassment especially in co-education universities. The physical harassment and objectification are the horrifying cause of depression which has a severe consequence of committing suicide and such cases mostly go unreported. The sexual violence does not only incorporate the physical contact of a victim and victimizer. The victimization did on the basis of gender and physical appearance is all forms of sexual violence. The female students are ogled and often males are ridiculed and objectified for being obese and short, jokes on somebody who stutters and stammers as well as the language jokes make these students feel unwelcome and rejected.  In several universities, there is now a strict sexual harassment policy which prevents such acts. A student can report without worrying or hesitation, for the fact the policy affirms complete confidentiality of the case and identity of the victim.

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Recently in Pakistan, a female student named Naila Rind from the University of Sindh in Jamshoro was found dead in her hostel. The report considered it a possibility of suicide because her body was found hanging from a ceiling fan. According to a police report, she was being harassed from a lecturer of a private school for three months (Dawn). Likewise, a female student from the University of Punjab was also found dead hanging from the ceiling fan in the hostel (The International News). Unfortunately, the mystery of such cases is mostly left unresolved and the agony faced by their parents are out of bounds.

The monetary crisis that a student faces can upset him consistently. The thoughts about tuition fees, books, other academic expenses and all the limitations this pressure impose on the activities of students such as deliberately avoiding hangouts with friends put them in a miserable situation. Usually, elite universities always offer financial aid to deserving students. These financial aid students often find it tough to befriend their fellow college mates. Such students isolate themselves and choose to walk alone throughout their college life. According to them, not having a fancy phone, branded clothes and a car decrease their value and they no longer feel special about themselves. Furthermore, the students who belong to rich families feel condescending to befriend students of the low class. Therefore, this perception of the division between poor and rich must be removed or ended.

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The untreated depression has long-lasting impacts which can lead to graver consequences. It will get worse and worse until the person decides to let go and move on. A depressed student can become addicted to alcohol or drugs. It can ruin his or her relationship with his/her friends, relatives and family. There are chances of getting a heart attack as well. Not to forget the scariest of all which is suicide. According to a report from 2011, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan informed there were 1,153 attempted suicides across Pakistan. A study has shown that students with major depression have a higher risk of death in the first few months of a heart attack (Untreated Depression). Therefore, it is crucial to treat depression. The results from treatment are positive. One will feel better and will return to normal self and begin enjoying life sooner. The treatment will also help in preventing future episodes of depression or at least will help shorten the episodes of depression (Orenstein, Beth W).

Sometimes antidepressants are consumed to self-medicate. But like every other medicine, these pills to have side effects, however, it depends on the type of medication one is using because there are several types of antidepressants. Some of the side effects can be a migraine, weight gain, nausea, and diarrhea.  According to a report from the people taking antidepressants, about 40 percent have side effects and out of those 40 percent, 25 percent were considered troublesome. The two most common are weight gain and sexual side effects. The early side effects of these medicines are nausea and headaches (Iliades, Chris). Therefore, it is highly recommended to see a counselor or psychologist while taking antidepressants. This is because the one who prescribes can tell if the medication is working and even beneficial.

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Many students who decide to self-medicate are reluctant to get treatment. Some people mistake it by considering it a shameful situation, which serves as the biggest obstacle. As per their thinking, even if they seek help it will make them vulnerable in front of their friends and families and people will look at them differently. The stigma of mental illness must be eradicated from the society. Sometimes students are unaware of where to go for help and according to some getting a treatment or medication is ineffective and just a waste of time. It is to be understood that being sad is natural and anxious because stressful events are part of lives and it is completely acceptable to ask for help and getting a treatment. Most of the students who did not seek help ended up taking their lives and this is the gravest loss for the humanity.

The introduction of a course at a college level would be one way to reduce depression and help depressed students come out of their misery. The course should teach everything the student needs to know about depression. More importantly, the course should be made mandatory and must be taken in the first two years at college. This will encourage the students who are depressed to open up and seek help. The frequents seminars like once in a semester about depression should also be carried out so that more and more students get to know. These seminars should also take place in schools because this will not only increase awareness but also will serve as a preempt solution to those students who are over-thinkers and susceptible to depression. Other than that, there should be a mandatory appointment with the counselor of college that needs to be set up and attended once in a year, probably at the end of every year, by every student. To make sure every student attends the appointment, set up a penalty for students who miss out on their appointments. For this purpose, the college and university should hire professional psychologists. If a student is found to be depressed, the college or university should approach the family of that student and make them aware of the situation of their child and also help the student in every possible way.

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There should be a less burden of college work on students. Most of the time it happens that students have two or even three exams a day which is really difficult for a student to manage to make the students so exhausted at the end of the day. At the thought having two or three exams makes students nervous and depress which grimly affects their preparation for exams. At most what can be done is that the student should have one exam per day, which will be highly beneficial. Therefore, these recommendations will elevate the awareness of the hidden evil known as depression and will most likely reduce it. Instead of having suicidal thoughts, students will become confident to be able to describe their feelings.

The perspective that only physical problems are of grave concern has to be replaced by the perspective that every issue has to be taken seriously irrespective of its nature. Adjusting to a college life for the first time, however, is a stressful event for some students. The new challenges confronted in this new life put the students at risk to develop depression. The prevalence of moderate to severe level of depression and anxiety has been increasing the enrollment of students in colleges and universities has increased. Both male and female students are prone to depression however the symptoms vary in both. The growing depression when start affecting the physical health of a person, help should be sought out instantly. If the depression is left untreated, it leads to negative effects such as drug addiction, heart attacks, drop outs, and suicide.

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Several cases of suicide have been reported where students committed suicides in their university dorms. The measures to prevent this evil has to be taken immediately before more souls kill themselves. The colleges and universities should improve their policies regarding bullying, sexual harassment, the burden of homework on students, exams and all other factors that lead to depression and stress. Not just that a university should help its students who are found depressed by hiring professional psychiatrists. If the proposed recommendations are effectively implemented, the number of students struggling with depression and hence the number of suicides will most likely be diminished.


Bibliography

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< http://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/detecting-depression#2>

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