by Lori AchmanNews Reporter
Depression is characterized by a period of empty, sad feelings that persist for a long period of time, usually more than two weeks.
The National Institute of Mental Health reports that more than 15 million Americans experience clinical depression each year. One-fourth of all women and one-eighth of all men will experience at least one episode of depression in their lifetime, NIMH reports.
Depression is especially common in people between the ages of 18 and 24, said Rosemary Hughes, director of Counseling and Testing Services. She estimates 40 percent of the people who seek help at the Counseling Center are suffering from some level of depression.
Although some students come in seeking treatment for problems such as stress or broken relationships, depression is always part of the problem, she said.
Symptoms of depression include a persistent sad or empty mood, fatigue, feelings of guilt and hopelessness, change in appetite, difficulty sleeping and thoughts of death or suicide.
While severity of symptoms varies with the individual, any person that suffers from these symptoms for more than two weeks should consult a professional, Hughes said.
"People that don't have good support networks, those with a family history and people that have low self-esteem or problems coping with stress are the most prone to depression," Hughes said. "Alcohol and other drugs can also lead to depression. Many college-aged people don't realize alcohol is a depressant."
There are three types of depression. Major depression is manifested by a combination of symptoms that prevent a person from enjoying and participating in life. Although episodes of depression are relatively short, they are disabling. These episodes can occur once, twice or several times in a lifetime.
Dysthymia involves long-term chronic symptoms that do not, but prevent students from feeling good or operating at full steam. People with dysthymia may also experience episodes of major depression.
Bipolar disorder, or manic depression, is characterized by cycles of deep depression and extreme mania. Bipolar disorder is often a chronic recurring condition.
About 80 percent of people suffering from depression can be helped by some form of treatment, NIMH reports. Psychological therapy and medication, or a combination of both, are the most common treatments.
Counseling and Testing Services offers students group therapy and one-on-one counseling. If a patient needs medication, Counseling and Testing can refer patients to the Health Center or work with the patient's regular physician, Hughes said.
Another student resource is the Depression Research Clinic, which uses self-management therapy to treat depression. The clinic uses a structured 12-week group therapy program, said Helena Huckabee, a graduate clinical psychology student working with the clinic.
"Self-management therapy helps people understand the causes of depression," she said. "People then learn different ways of handling situations in the future." The therapy was created by Dr. Lynn Rehm, head of the clinic, 20 years ago and has proved to be very successful, Huckabee said.
UH students are welcome to use the program. Fees are based on a sliding scale according to income, Huckabee said. Interested students should contact the Psychology Research and Service Center at 743-8600.
For people unwilling to seek professional treatment, Hughes recommends talking with friends and reading about depression for suggestions on what others do to help themselves. The Wellness Center, Room 34 in the University Center, offers pamphlets and brochures on depression and other illnesses.
"Sometimes just being able to walk in with a friend is very helpful," Hughes said. "It is very important to listen and encourage a friend to seek treatment."
Students can also come into Counseling and Testing and get help on how to deal with a friend suffering from depression, she said.
Most importantly, if someone is thinking about suicide or knows someone who is, the most important thing is to get help immediately, she said.
Counseling and Testing is open daily. Walk-ins are welcome Monday through Thursday. Most counseling services are covered by tuition and are free to students. The phone number is 743-5454.