College is challenging within itself, but adding mental illness to the mix takes the word “challenge” to a whole new level.
According to research by National Alliance on Mental Illness, mental health is a growing issue among students. NAMI found that one in four students have a diagnosable illness, and 40 percent do not seek help.
The Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors found that 36.4 percent of college students have experienced depression in some form. 70 percent of the directors thought that the amount of students with psychological problems on their campus increased from the previous year.
“Mental health issues are often difficult to talk about, but they’re very common. A lot more people might have experience with anxiety or depression than we might think,” said Alex Quinn, a junior at UVU studying outdoor recreation.
Quinn has anxiety and depression. He felt anxiety in his childhood, and then began to notice his depression while serving a Mormon mission. It continued to develop when he returned, so he sought professional help.
“For most of my adult life, I have dealt with depression. It’s not a secret, I just haven’t felt it necessary to disclose this about myself,” Quinn said. “I am open about my mental illness but it isn’t something I just can’t wait to talk about. It has provided valuable knowledge, and yet I feel no more able to cope with sorrow than anyone else. My life is good, I know that. I just struggle to feel that sometimes.”
Quinn said that depression is difficult and can affect one’s life. On some days, Quinn said he’d lose interest in what he usually enjoys, including spending time with those he cares about. In hard times, he recommended finding a confidant to share emotions with, whether they be a friend, family member, or professional.
UVU Junior Cliff Richards, a mechatronics engineering major, said that working on hobbies that interest him such as snowboarding and building plastic model kits help him cope with mental illness.
Richards was first diagnosed at 20 with anxiety, PTSD and depression. He joined the military at 21, and served for 10 years. He was medically retired due to his deteriorating mental condition.
His depression increased when six people he knew died by suicide and two others died in a motorcycle accident. Richards has noticed that depression is an issue among student veterans. With their different experiences, it can be difficult for veterans to socialize with other students and find a place where they feel they belong.
Richards said that depression can affect daily life, making work and regular tasks more difficult than usual. Some people don’t understand the severity of mental illness and might take it more lightly than they should. Richards father didn’t understand the seriousness of his illness and thought it was a method for seeking attention. Richards wishes that those without mental illness would empathize more with those that do.
“Instead of giving them sympathy, have empathy. Just try to understand what they’re going through. Don’t just take it lightly. Some people just say cheer up, and that’s it,” Richards said.
He has been able to receive a lot of positive influence and help through the Veteran Success Center. In the center, he was able to bond with other veterans. He also enjoys taking the time to help others with English by volunteering with the English Conversation Club.
“When you’re depressed, it seems that your life is over, but it’s not,” Richards said.