Video production by William Mandile
Elizabeth Davant, assistant director of health and wellness, says the peak times students seek treatment for depression at Queens are the middle and end of semesters, typically due to stress about midterms, anxiety about graduating or having to leave their partner.
Depression, a medical condition that can affect a person’s ability to work, study, interact with people or take care of themselves, is most prevalent in the United States among college students. Thirty percent of college students fit criteria to be diagnosed with depression, compared to only 16 percent of the population at large.
These statistics cause Davant to ask if such feelings are normal or if something is wrong. In an interview with The Queens Chronicle, she discussed possible causes of depression in college students, identified how to recognize depressed behaviors and gave advice on what to do if one thinks a friend is depressed.
Q: What qualifies as depression that needs to be treated?
“To be diagnosed with clinical depression, an individual must have a period of at least two weeks where they are feeling upset more days than not. It’s normal in college to have your ups and downs in your emotional state, feelings of hopelessness, withdrawing, and hygiene issues. The biggest indicator at Queens would be someone who doesn’t go to class.”
Q: What are the main symptoms of depression?
“At Queens, a huge indicator is when a student stops attending class. Even if its for a week, something is not right. Also, if you know of a friend who doesn’t really leave the room or is withdrawing from classes. Any profound change in a friend, such as negative or sad comments, anger, or increased drinking.”
Q: What are the causes of depression specifically at Queens?
“Queens is unique because of how small the school is. When people spread rumors and gossip, everyone knows everyone’s business, which allows for the issue to go from 0 to 10 way faster than at a larger school. You never know what’s the straw that’s going to break the camel’s back for a student.”
Q: What would you advise someone to do if they think their friend is suffering from depression?
“I would definitely have a conversation with the friend, maybe in a private room or area so there is plenty of time to talk.” She always tells students to identify the things they are noticing about their friend. Students are also encouraged to tell their friend that counseling is OK and encourage them to go so they can feel better. “Just being a good friend and listening, too, can go a long way.”
Davant encourages students who have friends who talk about death to openly ask, “Are you thinking about suicide?” Students are afraid to get that answer from a friend, but with living on campus there is a ton of support that will be there to help, she says.
According to www.ulifeline.org, a website with mental health resources for college students, between 80-90 percent of those who are treated for depression experience significant improvement and almost all individuals gain some relief from their symptoms, whether treatment be through counseling, medication or both.