There is something that people don’t really like to talk about, that is actually quite significant in college: mental health. Your mental state is very important in daily life, but college students are more prone to suffering from problems such as depression, insomnia, anxiety, and others. A lot of the time, students do not realize that they are experiencing a serious problem unless it is too late; the signs are usually subtle. I know all of this because I myself have been through several depressive episodes since I started college. I’m going to tell you guys about my experience, and how I got through it.
The spring semester of sophomore year of college was when I first realized that I was depressed. At first, I didn’t think anything was wrong with me because I went to my classes and meetings like I was supposed to. I learned later that I was just going through the phases. The one thing that changed was that in my free time, I chose to go to my room and lay in bed instead of hanging out in the student center on campus like I usually did. I didn’t think it was bad because lying in bed at the time was what I wanted to do.
The bad thing was that I chose to lay in bed all the time, not getting up unless I really had to for class. I put off eating and even getting up to use the bathroom until I really couldn’t wait anymore. The thing that really changed and made me want to seek help was the fact that I wasn’t sleeping. For about two weeks I kept waking up in the middle of the night, sometimes in a panic. I wasn’t able to go back to sleep most times and went throughout my day running on 2-3 hours of sleep. I felt frustrated and angry that I wasn’t getting sleep, but I didn’t say anything to anyone.
I tried to stick it out thinking the problem would fix itself, but the reality is that it wouldn’t and didn’t. I had to make a conscious decision that I wanted to change my situation and get help. I went to see the counselor at my campus and she helped me figure out why I was depressed, what were the unhealthy habits I grew as a result, and what I was going to do to change it. After a few sessions, I was able to get a grasp of what the issues were and mend them. I was actually surprised to see a change in my overall mood and demeanor that semester. I was genuinely happy to have things change and for my life to go back to normal.
From being personally affected by depression, I am able to give some recommendations:
- Never be afraid to ask for help
One main reason why it took me so long to get help was because I was embarrassed to go see the counselor. Looking back now, I cannot find one valid reason I had to be embarrassed. Never be ashamed to ask for help for your problem, especially when it comes to your mental health.
- Build a support system
Try to find at least 2 people that you trust that you can turn to in a time of need. Having this support system will allow there to be someone who can look out for you, and help you spot your problem when you cannot.
- Don’t take warning signs lightly
Once you see something is wrong, don’t brush it off. That was one mistake that I did, and things actually got worse. The earlier that you can spot a problem, the easier it will be to fix it.
- Do not suffer in silence
There are so much people willing to help you. The best thing I did for myself was make the decision to go get help. I had to realize that while it would be easier to hope that all of my feelings would go away, I couldn’t make them stop on my own. And the counselor I spoke to was amazing.
- Know the signs
For me, it was insomnia, anxiety, withdrawal from activities, and extreme procrastination. For someone else, the signs could be completely different. The important thing is to know when something has changed from your daily routine and to catch it.
Here at Penn State, there are many resources available to us when something like this happens. The biggest is CAPS (Counseling and Psychological Services). The CAPS office in located on the 5th floor of the student health center.