University Counseling Service (UCS) Mental Health Newsletter -
March 2017
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It’s Real, It’s Common, It’s Treatable.

Feeling moody, sad, or grouchy? Who doesn’t once in a while? College is an exciting time, but it can also be very challenging. As a college student, you might be leaving home for the first time, learning to live independently, taking tough classes, meeting new people, and getting a lot less sleep. Small or large setbacks can seem like the end of the world, but these feelings usually pass with a little time.

But if you have been feeling sad, hopeless, or irritable for at least 2 weeks, you might have depression. You’re not alone. Depression is the most common health problem for college students. You should know:

Depression can be a medical illness

Depression can be treated

Early treatment is best

What is Depression? - A Quick Video

How is Depression Treated?

Simply put, people with depression who do not seek help suffer needlessly.
Although depression can be a devastating illness, it often responds to treatment. The key is to get a specific evaluation and a treatment plan. Today, there are a variety of treatment options available for people with depression.
  • Psychotherapy including cognitive behavioral therapy, family-focused therapy and interpersonal therapy
  • Medications including antidepressants, mood stabilizers and antipsychotic medications
  • Brain stimulation therapies including electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) or repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS)
  • Light therapy, which uses a light box to expose a person to full spectrum light and regulate the hormone melatonin
  • Alternative therapies including acupuncture, nutrition, exercise, guided imagery
  • Mind/body/spirit approaches such as meditation, Mindfulness practice, faith and prayer

What Can I Do For Myself if I Have Depression?

Besides seeing a counselor and a doctor, you can also help your depression by being patient with yourself and good to yourself. Don’t expect to get better immediately, but you will feel yourself improving gradually over time.  Here are some key factors for improving your condition:

  • Daily exercise, spending time outside in nature and in the sun, and eating healthy foods can also help you feel better.
  • Get enough sleep. Try to have consistent sleep habits and avoid all-night study sessions.
  • Relaxation Techniques. Your counselor may teach you how to be aware of your feelings and teach you relaxation techniques. Use these when you start feeling down or upset.
  • Avoid using drugs and at least minimize, if not totally avoid, alcohol.
  • Break up large tasks into small ones, and do what you can as you can; try not to do too many things at once.
  • Try to spend time with supportive people, and take advantage of campus resources, such as student support groups. Talking with your parents, guardian, or other students who listen and care about you gives you support.
  • Try to get out with friends and try fun things that help you express yourself. As you recover from depression, you may find that even if you don’t feel like going out with friends, if you push yourself to do so, you’ll be able to enjoy yourself more than you thought.

Don’t Suffer In Silence.  Treatment is Effective


 “Depression is the most unpleasant thing I have ever experienced. . . . It is that absence of being able to envisage that you will ever be cheerful again. The absence of hope. That very deadened feeling, which is so very different from feeling sad. Sad hurts but it's a healthy feeling. It is a necessary thing to feel. Depression is very different.”

J.K. Rowling
Depression is a serious illness that affects different people in different ways.    It interferes with daily functioning, causes a person to feel distressed, and typically persists for weeks or months.  Depression affects about 20% of us at some point in our lives and is the second most common reason for seeking help at college counseling centers.
Depression affects emotionally, physically, and cognitively.
  • Emotional aspects of depression include feeling sad, being irritable, feeling empty or hopeless, feeling anxious, not being able to experience pleasure, and crying more often than usual. 
  • Physical aspects of depression can include disruptions in sleep patterns, changes in eating and appetite, feeling tired all the time, and feeling like everything is harder and takes longer.
  • Cognitive changes may include trouble with concentration, lack of motivation, difficulty making even small decisions, having problems remembering things, and having thoughts about death or suicide.
There is no single known cause of depression but genetics and life experiences probably both contribute.  An episode of depression can be triggered by life events, such as a relationship breakup, significant losses, stressful situations, or traumatic experiences.
The good news about depression is that treatment is effective.  You don’t have to suffer in silence or tough it out alone.  Counseling or psychotherapy has a very high rate of success and there is an array of safe and effective medications for the treatment of depression.  Make an appointment with a mental health provider such as psychologist, counselor, or social worker or talk to your health care provider. 

David Towle, Ph.D.

Licensed Psychologist & Senior Staff Counselor
Medical Student Counseling Center, Carver College of Medicine

The Stress-Depression Connection

The most common culprit of depression and anxiety during the college years is stress.  Stress leads to overactivity of the body's stress-response mechanism.
Sustained or chronic stress, in particular, leads to elevated hormones… When these hormonal/chemical systems are working normally, they regulate biological processes like sleep, appetite, energy, and sex drive, and permit expression of normal moods and emotions.
When the stress response fails to shut off and reset after a difficult situation has passed, it can lead to depression in susceptible people.

Read more

Rap Up
So What Does This Mean For UIowa Students?
We’re Here For You.

Individuals who are experiencing depression may benefit from a number of ways through individual or group counseling.  Counselors and psychologists are highly trained mental health service providers with experience in collaboratively helping clients recover from depression.  Often times, counselors help clients identify contributing sources (e.g. relationships, academics, health issues, etc.) to depression and assist clients to find alternative ways to manage distress.  Some ways that students can benefit is from receiving support from a counselor or learning new coping techniques (e.g. mindfulness, goal planning, and providing different ways to manage negative thoughts).  A key to our work with clients is to collaborate on mutually decided goals in order to meet each individual’s unique needs.  Some of the techniques and strategies learned in therapy may be helpful to increase optimism and prevent future depression. As well, there are a multitude of resources available on campus and beyond to promote overall wellbeing.  
Mercedes C. Santana, M.Ed.
Psychology Intern, The University of Iowa, University Counseling Service
Copyright © 2017 The University Counseling Service (UCS), All rights reserved.

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