BY MORGAN HUGHES

CAMPUS NEWS EDITOR

Back in November when I pitched this series on college depression to a room full of writers and editors, I expected each writer who took on a story to have to go out and find someone to interview who knows something about depression. Immediately, my expectations were blown out of the water. As hands went up to offer to take on each story on the list, I learned something about each person on my staff.

One after another, more than a handful of writers disclosed that they, too, live or have lived with depression or another form of mental illness. They said it loud that they know what it's like, and rose to the occasion of writing an article on living with and seeking treatment for depression that serves the public, through the lens of someone living with and seeking treatment for depression.

In a way, the audience-writer dynamic was a mirror, instead of a stage.

In the months I've spend organizing and editing the content for this series, I've learned a lot.

Depression looks different on everyone. No matter how you wear your depression, or when the waves come, there is no box you can be put into or checklist you can be reduced to.

The most inspiring, driven, competent group of people I know sat in front of me on a regular Tuesday evening and disclosed to me in great trust that they know the struggle of mental illness as a college student. Almost 50 percent of college students have reported having symptoms of depression. How could I have dismissed the possibility that, in a room of at least 20 people, one of them may have suffered from mental illness?

Because depression looks different on everyone.

There is no box you can be put into.

There is no checklist you can be reduced to.

Despite how the media portrays mental illness, you may be surprised at the list of symptoms. Here is a list from the National Institute of Mental Health:

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness, or pessimism
  • Irritability
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
  • Decreased energy or fatigue
  • Moving or talking more slowly
  • Feeling restless or having trouble sitting still
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
  • Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
  • Appetite and/or weight changes
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
  • Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems without a clear physical cause and/or that do not ease even with treatment

A common end-of-the-semester blight for many college students can check nine out of 13 symptoms of depression. Whether you feel like this all the time or just over the past few weeks — go to therapy. If it's a reoccurring thing, even if it is always set off by finals, it is better to have a diagnosis, know the symptoms, have advice and options on how to manage it and be able to respond accordingly when the widely dreaded time of year comes around.

If at all when you read this series on college depression, and you relate to the lists, stories and descriptions of the people depicted in each of these stories, take a breath. Pick up the phone and call a counselor. It is time to make a change in your life.

You can't keep living with unpredictable or uncontrollable lows.

Get a diagnoses and go from there.

Call the Center for Counseling and Psychological Health (CCPH) to set up an appointment or get help setting one up off-campus. Call 413-545-2337 or 413-545-0333, Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Ask for the on-call clinician. You'll be scheduled to talk briefly with a clinician, who will make recommendations based on your needs.

Urgent appointments for situations that compromise your ability to function normally are usually available in 24 to 48 hours. Emergency appointments for situations that put yourself or others at risk are available 24/7. After hours and on holidays, call University Health Services at 413-577-5000 and ask for the CCPH clinician on-call.

Email Morgan at mahughes@umass.edu or follow her on Twitter @HughesMorgan_.

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