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The Heartdrive: Dealing with Depression on Campus

Content warning: The following article contains sensitive content involving suicide, depression and mental illness.

Your parents probably warned you about the frat parties in college. They probably warned you about taking 8 a.m. classes (even when you kind of need them to graduate). But did anyone ever warn you about depression?

October is National Depression Awareness month. Classes are streamlining because the holidays are quickly approaching and October boos really turn into October blues. We asked a couple of Mercer students about their experience with depression and here’s what they had to say.

“I really considered ending my life,” Amari Oliver said. “I would leave a friend's house, and I would think to myself in the car, ‘What if I let go of the wheel and the car moved off the side of the road?’ Sometimes I would let go of the wheel and let the car drift, but at some point, I would grab it because the only thing keeping me from killing myself was my mother.”

Because mental health and depression are still so stigmatized, it can be hard to speak to family members about your health.

“I finally opened up to my mom about how I was feeling on our car ride to my first Mercer college visit,” Oliver said. “I honestly believe that if I had not told her, then I would have eventually told myself that I really need to end my life because it would be better for everyone else.”

But some people are not as fortunate to have understanding parents. Emily Cuarenta said that she’s only spoken to her parents about her mental health once, and that was after she had been hospitalized for her suicidal thoughts.

Telling one person how you feel is, for many people, the first step in coming to terms with depression on campus. The Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) is a free service that does just that, and in many ways, CAPS has touched the lives of many students with jeopardized mental health.

For some CAPS seems to have great value, but others have expressed opposing sentiments.

“Yeah, I’ve been to CAPS,” Aaron Andrews said. “It was pretty helpful for me at the time.”

But Andrews said that using the free psychological services has its downsides. “It’s not frequent enough,” he said.

He also expressed that the long wait times for an appointment could make matters worse when someone needs help right then and there.

Taylor Pirmantgen said that her sophomore resident assistant recommended that she speak with CAPS, but she was displeased.

“Talk therapy can be beneficial for a lot of people, it just wasn’t quite the right fit for me,” she said.

However, for Oliver, talking is all she needed. “For me, being able to talk through what I was thinking and what I was going through was very important for me,” she said.

Oliver was later prescribed medication for her depression, but she eventually stopped taking them. “I did not feel like they improved my sense of being. Instead, I still felt as if I were a zombie. I had no emotions or anything, I was just going through the motions every day,” Oliver said.  

While Oliver was able to talk to someone, Jiali Chen, an international student from China, feels that certain factors like language barriers and unfamiliarity prevent her from getting the help she needs.

“As an international student, I understand it is hard for people who are living in an environment that they are not familiar with, it would be hard for us to seek help,” Chen said.

Yet these students were still able to give words of encouragement and advice for all suffering silently with depression.

”Just because you have an outlet for recreation doesn’t mean your depression is automatically gonna be healed,” Sarah Doverspike said. “But I still urge you to find your niche or extra activity that brings some solace and engage in that as much as possible.”

Oliver also gave some closing words of encouragement and advice to friends of those experiencing depression. “My recommendation is that you continuously ask [those with depression] each day how has your day been or how are you doing,” she said.  “I believe that this could slowly allow them to feel more comfortable talking about what they are going through. You never know whose life you could be saving just by listening to them.

Lastly, Pirmantgen wants Mercer students to know that they should ask for help when they feel the need to. “You have every right to seek help,” Pirmantgen said. “Everyone has their own demons to face.”

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