I had bad luck with my health growing up. I went through pneumonia, allergic reactions and more rounds of strep throat and stomach flu than I can recall. I vividly remember the fire of strep raging in my windpipe. Yet, the most painful experience I’ve had is fending off depression every day of my life.
Depression has hurt me more than broken bones, more than losing a big game and more than any other pain I’ve known. I fought through undiagnosed depression in grade school, but I got help. I still regularly use some coping strategies like relaxation exercises, working out and self-motivation. Along with support from my family and friends, these strategies have worked for me. They’re a large part of why I’m at the University of Minnesota today.
Beyond my own experiences, I recently witnessed a young woman grappling with suicide. A friend of mine and I were walking across the Washington Avenue Bridge late at night last September when I saw a woman sitting on the edge of the bridge, looking down and keeping silent. I remember seeing tears swell in her eyes. I saw the fear and pain of someone who doesn’t want to keep going. A cyclist was talking with her, trying to get her to come down from the edge. Another student had called 911. Within 10 minutes, she was safe in the back of a squad car.
I don’t know what became of this woman, but I hope she’s safe.
I’m likely not alone in my experience. The 2013 Boynton Health Service Survey Report found that about 8 percent of University students are currently taking medication for depression. About one in five students reported they had been diagnosed with depression in their lifetime.
Unfortunately, about three in 10 students reported having unmanaged stress.
Boynton recently began planning a new, text message-based program that allows students to anonymously message a number during a crisis or to just talk to someone. Programs tailored to young adults are necessary because 18- to 25-year-olds are the most likely to have a mental illness.
Those who cannot or will not seek help, treatment or another person could benefit from this program.
Regardless of whether Boynton finds funding for the program, I highly recommend that the University continues to direct funding to aid those with mental illnesses like depression.
In addition to the struggles students, staff and faculty fight, Minnesotans may face several months of seasonal affective disorder, or winter depression. Those who battle SAD are particularly sensitive to sunlight or not getting enough light. However, little is known about this ailment other than it affects different people in varying degrees during the winter months due to decreased sun exposure. Compounded with daily stressors (grades, debt, family issues, alcohol consumption, etc.), SAD may be enough to severely trouble a student.
Depression is not a pain that I or many of the people who deal with it can describe. With help from Boynton, I hope students, staff and faculty can greater understand and control their mental illnesses and/or emotions.
As someone who has both seen and felt the effects of depression, I believe that this anonymous texting service would benefit future students on the arduous road of life. It has the potential to save lives in the process.