Lonely all the time

By Simon Jackson

Despite the progress in talking about and dealing with physical and sexually transmitted diseases, a disease still exists on campus that few are willing to talk about–depression. Mental Illness Awareness Week passed with barely a murmur Oct. 3-10 and it might come as a shock to some students to know just how many are affected. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, 36 per cent of Canadians have had or will suffer from depression during their lives.

Things could actually be more serious than that for college students, who rank among the most prevalent sufferers of depression. A recent study from the American College Health Association lists 63 per cent of students as having said they had times when things felt hopeless and 45 per cent reported times in which they felt so depressed it was difficult to function.

“Depression is a very common issue for students,” said University of Calgary Counselling Centre counsellor Jeff Vander Werf. “It can be caused by a whole range of issues which students go through. We encourage students to seek the kind of help they feel most comfortable with. For some this might be seeing their doctor, for others talking over their issues, either with a counsellor or with friends, relatives or even professors. We find that the student leaders around campus are often very good as first points of contact. Many of them have received training in dealing with these issues. An important thing though, is to choose a method of dealing with things that suits you.”

Depression is most likely to occur in 18-19 year olds, making the U of C the most likely location in Calgary to find a fellow sufferer. Those seeking more information have a number of sources to turn to.

“U of C counselling services provide a psycho-educational group each semester, which runs for 2 hours and seeks to provide more information and understanding on depression and related issues,” said Vander Werf. “Students are also welcome to make individual appointments to talk with us or ask questions.”

Despite the high number of students suffering from depression, the greatest problem the disease has is its stigma as a mental illness. Many Canadians simply choose not to talk about it. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, 49 per cent of those who admit suffering depression never see anyone about their problems.

The more serious side to depression is the risk of suicide. Myra Morrant of the Centre for Suicide Prevention pointed out that there is plenty of help and information out there for those who are suffering, or who are concerned for someone they know.

“Our centre provides a variety of functions, from information and education, to preventative training programs, we also do research,” she said. “Anyone with questions or concerns is welcome to contact us. We have counsellors and staff on site to provide assistance or treatment, not just for those suffering from depression but, concerned or interested in the issues.”

Eighty per cent of Canadians will know or be close to someone suffering from depression.

Leave a comment