The road to enlightenment is littered with different challenges. As university students, classes are expected to be difficult and taxing, and there will be awkward moments while trying to form new relationships. What many are not prepared for are onsets of dormant illnesses, invisible to the eye and undetectable by any ultrasound or blood test.
“It was just everything at once, and I guess it was too much,” says a former University of Toronto student, who found that battling for good grades was unbearable when he couldn’t even manage to get out of bed some mornings. He describes feeling lost, hated and even abandoned.
“My parents forced me to see someone even though I didn’t want to. I’m glad I did though, everything has been better after the diagnosis.”
He dropped out in 2009 after being diagnosed with a clinical depression.
A situation such as this is not unique or even uncommon in a university environment. So while many think of depression as a crisis for the middle-aged, Harvard University reported in 2002 that there has been a 28 per cent increase in the recognition and diagnosis of adolescent and youth depression. This is a staggering number that has undoubtedly had a debilitating effect on students across the globe.
On top of this, the typical period where other mental illnesses become pronounced happen to coincide with the age at which most begin university. Bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, both of which often have life-altering symptoms, are amongst these. Hallucinations, paranoia and rapidly changing moods are all occurrences that take hold in early adulthood or around the ages of eighteen to twenty one.
Laurier Brantford students aren’t immune to these affects. Laurier’s Counseling Services published statistics supporting this: “Roughly one in 25 Laurier Brantford students seek professional counseling each year for personal development through Counseling Services.”
This means that statistically, Laurier students see at least anywhere from one to a dozen others who have used the counseling services provided by the university a day. Most, however, profess adamantly that they don’t know anyone who has ever sought this kind of help.
There are seminars often on sexual health, the importance of healthy eating, and even fitness programs. Very little is openly said about depression. On campus, the notion of mental health and its fragile nature are still very much a taboo issue amongst students.
The Royal College of Psychiatrists reported in 2002 that this could be a society-wide phenomenon, writing that “the stigma of mental illness, although more often related to context than to a person’s appearance, remains a powerful negative attribute in all social relations.”
So while mental illness and depression amongst students is seldom mentioned, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t real or powerful.