Depression hurts, depression harms, and depression can affect anyone, including college students at Dixie State University.
The Cooperative Institutional Research Program conducted a study of more than 150,000 college freshmen nationwide in 2014. According to the survey, 9.5 percent of freshmen often felt depressed at school. This shows it doesn’t take long for new students to become affected by depression.
Student Body President Matt Devore, a senior integrated studies major from Mesquite, said he recognizes depression as an issue at DSU, and he’s doing what he can to help through his role in the Utah Student Association.
The Utah Student Association is a statewide collection of student body presidents who hold meetings to discuss the interests and rights of students across Utah.
“Each year, we come up with a statewide initiative; something we feel can impact all the students in our state,” Devore said. “At the initial meeting, we came up with a mental health campaign.”
Devore said the association decided on a slogan for the campaign: Stand Up to Stigma.
According to Psychology Today, mental health stigma is divided into two types: social stigma, which is marked by discrimination toward an individual with mental health issues, and self-stigma, in which the sufferer feels ashamed of their mental health issues due to the discrimination.
“That [campaign slogan] goes along with the mental health issues, whether it be depression, suicide prevention, anything like that,” Devore said. “We’re just ‘standing up to the stigmas.’”
Devore said this mental health campaign will go into effect in the spring. Through the association, the student body presidents from each school in Utah will pick a week to discuss mental health issues and what options are available for students who are suffering.
Although this program is in place, Devore said DSU doesn’t have as many depressed students compared to the other universities in Utah.
“We’re [at] the lower-end of depression,” Devore said. “I would say because we have that sunshine, (and) we have that different kind of atmosphere, we don’t have as much depression.”
Devore’s personal goal for his mental health campaign is to make sure students know where to get help. He’ll incorporate Stand Up to Stigma into his campaign by letting students know their friends are a great resource.
“Your friends are here to have a connection [with you],” Devore said. “You need to be able to talk to them, and that can help you right there alone.”
Donna Walter is the president of DSU’s National Alliance on Mental Illness club. The club just took off this year, but she said she is already seeing depression on campus.
“When somebody starts a new change in their life, like college, chronic depression doesn’t show itself until after you get in and find out the work load, find out what you need to do and what’s required,” Walter said.
Walter said depression contributes to DSU’s dropout rate.
“It’s a lot of work to go to school, but it’s even harder to go out and flip hamburgers at McDonald’s,” Walter said. “[Depressed students] think, ‘This is too hard, I’m going to take the easy road,’ so they drop out and end up working at McDonald’s or somewhere like that.”
Walter said non-depressed students should go out of their way to reach out to students who are suffering.
“If we see people who are shying away and look like they’re struggling and having a hard time, just be their friend,” Walter said. “It only takes 10 seconds to smile at somebody or ask them, ‘How’s your day?’ [or] ‘Would you like to go have lunch with us?’”
Walter said the club’s main focus is toward campus, but it hopes to gradually get more involved with the community. She said they’d like to do more service projects, as well as a 5k run to help bring awareness.
Students interested in receiving help from NAMI are welcome to seek out its services through OrgSync or by contacting psychology adviser Debra Decker at [email protected]. Counselors are available through the Health and Wellness Center at 435-652-7756.
“Don’t be shy to ask for help,” Walter said. “That’s why we’re here. We want to help.”