Depression, anxiety and low self-confidence are all-too-common problems these days. We have engaged in many conversations with unhappy friends and have even expressed our own unhappiness to them. While we understand that our college years are supposed to be fun-filled and exciting, we also understand that life can quickly become stressful. Suddenly we find ourselves obsessing over things we never bothered considering before, and thinking unhopeful thoughts.
In the past 15 years, anxiety has become an increasing problem on college campuses across the country. According to a survey from the “Anxiety Disorders Association of America,” the amount of depression on college campuses has nearly doubled and suicide has tripled. What is the reason behind this? Many attribute this rise to the amount of stressors students deal with in college. College is a series of firsts. Many are dealing with exposure to a new environment, new friends, new relationships, harder classes and a slew of extracurricular activities. Ages 18-24 is also the average age of onset for many mental diseases. Colgate is not an anomaly! Over the years there has been a huge increase in depression on this campus. Conant house, the campus counseling center, is booked for the entire semester with student appointments. One reason for this increase in depression and anxiety on Colgate’s campus could be the widely shared overachiever mentality. It is not enough that we are in four classes but many students feel that they should be doing more. A student’s day could be filled up not only by classes but a load of other activities and meetings as well. There is this belief on campus that we can totally overextend ourselves, work hard and play hard, and that if you can’t do it then you’re not good enough. Everyone else looks as if they are doing it all and they still manage that smile at the end of the day. However, we would beg to differ. Maybe Colgate students are doing it all, the grades, the sports, the meetings, but the evidence shows that they are most certainly not happy.
In relation to anxiety, if self-confidence is the socio-psychological concept that relates to self-assuredness in one’s personal judgment, ability and power, then why do we so often feel helpless? When thinking about the Colgate campus, depression does not just have to manifest itself in suicidal thoughts or anxiety. Low self-confidence affects someone’s ability to concentrate on tasks at hand and it might infiltrate itself into relationships. Did you know that 20 percent of college-aged women in America are bulimic? Did you know two out of five women and one out of five men would trade three to five years of their life to achieve their weight goals? Did you know young girls are more afraid of becoming fat than they are of nuclear war, cancer or losing their parents? These statistics are shocking yet all point to a serious problem in our society today. Being a well-rounded Colgate student is not only about excelling in classes or extra-curricular activities, but also it is about being accepted by one’s peers. As probably most of you have experienced, acceptance by a certain group of friends is something that is socialized and learned. As we have heard over and over again throughout our lives, if you act confident you will radiate confidence. However, to act confident is different than being truly confident where it is easier said than done.
This week, we want to provide you some warning signs of depression and suicide just in case. One of the most noticeable signs is social withdrawal. If you haven’t seen a good friend for a few days, give her/him a text, call or even stop by! There is no harm in checking in. Even if nothing is wrong, it is always good to catch up and have a good time.
Other signs are increased expressions of pessimism, hopelessness, cynicism and even depression and death. If someone you know starts doing this, try asking more questions to see if you can get to the heart of the problem. Perhaps your friend needs someone to talk to and vent for a while. Talking is always helpful.
More important signs to look out for include marked changes in daily behavior. These can include, but are not limited to, a newfound preoccupation with body image, aggressive or threatening behavior, excessive drinking and/or drug use, changes in personal hygiene and dramatic weight gain/loss. If you notice these changes in someone you know, try to talk to your friend about his/her well-being, and if you feel if it is too much for you to handle suggest your friend visit Conant House (315-228-7385). If you are afraid of expressing such concern to your friend’s face, consider meeting with a counselor from Conant House yourself to get more advice on how to handle the situation.
The will to live can never be expressed enough. Alternatives to suicide we see include: see yourself in everyone you meet (we can all find that we have something in common); act your age or any other, believe in your own laughter (laughing is more than loads of fun, it’s good for your heart); and lastly, try to keep someone else alive (find purpose in other people’s lives).