College Students More Susceptible to Depression

Clinical depression is more complex than feeling sad. It is an illness that affects how you function at school, work and in relationships.

“Depression, it’s one of those things that’s like having another voice in your head telling you these things that you know aren’t true,” Ainsworth said. “Eventually, you just start believing them because it’s easier to believe them than to fight them.”

Ashley Ainsworth, photo from Facebook

Ainsworth, a natural resource management major, attended Texas Tech for a year and a half before she transferred back to South Plains College for personal reasons.

She said she believes her depression was definitely heightened when she started college, saying it was ten times harder on her because she was not prepared for the challenges college presented. But, the development of her depression began in high school, a lot of it stemming from family issues.

“I don’t think you just wake up one day and say, ‘Oh I’m depressed.’ I think it’s a process,” Ainsworth said.

She recounts a pivotal time in high school where her depression took a major turn.

During her junior year, she was a section leader for her marching band. In her section was a teenage boy, a grade or two below her, named Rick.

She said Rick was very shy and quiet.

“When we were alone, he would talk at a normal volume, but the second someone else walked into the room he’d start whispering, and you’d have to be within a foot to hear him,” Ainsworth said.

She described the band’s end of the summer pool party, where both her and Rick’s lives took a tragic turn.

“No one knew he couldn’t swim,” Ainsworth said. “I was his section leader, I was his friend, I didn’t know, and I was the one who convinced him to get in the pool. Before, he was just sitting on the side, and I wanted him to have fun, and I wanted him to enjoy the party and mingle and make more friends.”

Ainsworth said that no one told him there was a deep end, and a couple of girls walking by happened to see his body floating in the water.

“He drowned — he died,” Ainsworth said.

This, she said, is where things started spiraling downward quickly for her.

“I felt very guilty for a very long time, I was very depressed. I couldn’t go a day without thinking about him, or crying, or being upset with myself,” Ainsworth said.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, depression is the most common health problem for college students.

College students are more susceptible to depression because they are adjusting to learning how to live independently, taking rigorous classes, meeting new people, getting fewer hours of sleep and trying to balance pressures being placed on them.

Kelly C. Cukrowicz, Ph. D., is a clinical psychologist at Texas Tech. She said a lot of students have problems with depression, anxiety and general life stress.

“Usually when people are experiencing problems with depression, there are things that make them more vulnerable,” she said.

Cukrowicz said sometimes if people have a family history of depression, they are most vulnerable to experience it at times when they are experiencing particular stressors.

“With college students, if they’re struggling to make friends, or finding their class work to be really difficult or having other typical stressors of college life, those are things, if they are not managing their stressors well, may increase the chances that they will start to have trouble with depression,” she said.

Where you can get help:

  • As a student at Tech, you can seek counseling at the Student Counseling Center 806-742-3674 at no additional cost to you.
  • You may seek a medication consultation through Student Health Services.
  • On campus, you can also seek counseling on a sliding fee basis at the Psychology Clinic 806-742-3737 or the Marriage and Family Therapy Clinic 806-742-3074
  • If you have insurance, you can seek counseling and/or medication with professionals that are listed as providers by your insurance company.
  • Cukrowicz said to seek help quickly if a student is having thoughts of suicide. Visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org or call 1-800-273-TALK.
About Kayla Black
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