More than meets the eye: Misconceptions about depression linger on campus

Depression can be described as a chemical imbalance in the brain that can result in disinterest in regular activities or depressed mood, so it is important to be there for loved ones who may have depression.

Millions of people around the world are diagnosed with depression, and every year, thousands die by suicide because of the mental illness. Depression can stem from stress in college, and even if an individual is not affected,  someone around them may be, so knowledge about the disorder is important. 

“I’ve noticed that it is more common than most people would know,” Lisa Thompson-Gibson, counselor and suicide prevention project coordinator, said.

As a student, having depression can be a much different experience than it might be after graduation. According to Counseling Services Director James Linsin, the amount of time that students are evaluated in college may play a role in how depression affects them. Linsin said students’ classes, jobs and limited free time all play a part in their evaluation as a person.

“Outside of college, there’s certainly no shortage of times when people feel evaluated, but I think in college, there tends to be more of those evaluation points,” Linsin said.

Thompson-Gibson suggests the change from high school to college has a possibility of adding to depression among students.

“People respond differently to transition in their life, and for some people it can show up as depression,” Thompson-Gibson said.

Additionally, there are some possible misconceptions when it comes to depression. For example, many people think the time of year has a direct correlation with how depressed someone is, but according to Thompson-Gibson, that may not necessarily be the case. She said how people react to the experiences and rhythms of life will most likely play a greater role in how depressed someone rather than the time of year.

Some may also perceive the concept of depression as something different. Linsin said depression is more than just being sad.

“Depression can include sadness, but it tends to go beyond sadness in a more painful way. It’s really a series of symptoms that negatively affect a person’s life along a lot of areas. It tends to get in the way of numerous things,” Linsin said.

However, there are steps that can be taken to stay informed about the illness, and treatment is always available. 

“Sometimes depression can just strike seemingly out of nowhere, and it affects people from all different backgrounds and walks of life. So I think being able to realize not only is this not my fault, but the fact that it’s also something I can get help for, and that I’m not alone in dealing with it is important,” Linsin said.

After recognizing the frequency of the illness, one must then take the next step of reaching out to someone else, such as a friend, a teacher or Counseling Services.

Many times, Thompson-Gibson said, the people who are close to the person with depression, such as their friends, coworkers or teachers will be the first people to notice that something is wrong.

 “Any work that you can do to help the community understand more about depression benefits our community. We all have a part in supporting each other and supporting good mental health,” Thompson-Gibson said.

According to Thompson-Gibson, not only are there ways for depressed people to get help, but  there are also proactive ways to figure out how to recognize and talk to someone who is depressed, such as using Kognito, a program all SIUE students can use with the enrollment key “SIUe16.”

People who are, or think they may be depressed are only a phone call away from getting the help they need. For help, contactCounseling Services at 650-2842, Chestnut Health Systems Crisis Line  at 877-0316, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 273-8255. In case of an emergency during non business hours, contact University Police at  650-3324 or 911. 

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