Starting the conversation
We’ve all had those days. A ringing dissonance shatters the reality your mind created throughout the night. Half opened eyes glance at the machine that runs your life. You pray the blinking lights are wrong; it cannot really be time to get up.
As your gaze shifts from the unfinished homework on your desk, you notice the clouds forming over campus. Another rainy day awaits. Apart from the unfinished homework, the bad weather and the laundry you have been meaning to do since last week, the class you just arrived to has a quiz you forgot about. Resting your head firmly on the desk, the thought “I’m so depressed right now” might sink in.
Before we jump to that hasty conclusion, Lorie Escobar, our resident licensed counselor on campus, has some news for us. “Everyone has a bad day. With depression the low mood usually lasts two weeks or more and is coupled with other symptoms.” These symptoms are:
- Changes in appetite (eating too much or too little)
- Not enjoying activities you once enjoyed
- Lack of motivation
- And the largest sign, thoughts of suicide (suicidal ideation)
If these symptoms are present, then depression could be a possibility; but if depression is in the mix, all hope is not lost. Union College has resources. Find Lorie at the Career Center, which is located on the lower level of the atrium right before walking outside to the tennis courts. The first session is free and each additional session is $5.
Don’t let the cost stop you, as financial assistance is available. Stan Hardt, whose office is located in Campus Ministries, also offers free pastoral counseling to any student who needs it.
Please note that depression is not the only form of mental illness. The American Psychological Association found that among significant psychological problems on college campuses, anxiety is the top concern, followed by depression and then relationship problems.
Too often mental health is trivialized. A side of society, Lorie believes, has become “flippant about mental health” and jokes about it when the person sitting there may be struggling with depression or something else.
“The other side is many people will not seek help because of the stigma of mental health,” Lorie continued. “Many clients will seem almost embarrassed to come in, as if they have somehow failed when really it is a sign of strength to ask for help.”
Our strength does not lie in our ability to mask our troubles. We are burdened down by the weight of college life. Lorie recognizes that there are “a wide range of issues facing college students: from freshman struggling to adapt to college life to those who have been dealing with issues such as bipolar depression. . . . Issues such as relationships, perfectionism, sexuality, and the list goes on.”
If talking to a mental health professional is not a step you want to take, Lorie suggests exercise, talking with friends and listening to uplifting music. Having daily devotions and worship are at the top of her list of ways to de-stress.
Ultimately, in order to help those suffering from mental distress and disorders, we must normalize seeking out help. According to Lorie, many do not want help because they think they are the only ones dealing with their current issue.
Healing can begin once we are willing to talk about it. Do not be afraid to start the conversation.
Kyle is a senior studying language arts education.