By Elizabeth Crea
As the snow begins to melt and the weather becomes more pleasant, it seems as though the despair of winter will soon come to an end. But for students with depression, the changing seasons are not a quick fix for the blues.
College depression has become a more visible issue in the past decade. A recent study reported by The Los Angeles Times states “[From 1998 to 2010] the percentage of students with moderate to severe depression rose from 34 percent to 41 percent while the number of students on psychiatric medications increased from 11 percent to 24 percent.”
Beloit College is not an exception to these statistics. Jan Floto, Director of the Student Health Center, says that the Health and Counseling Center are constantly working with students who have mental health issues. “We’re usually booked for the week by Tuesdays,” Floto comments. “The health center is very well used; most of the students seek help in dealing with depression and anxiety problems.”
Floto believes that one of the main causes of college depression is the transitional phase from high school to a college lifestyle and the process of becoming an adult. “There are outside pressures of wanting to succeed, and it’s very overwhelming for some people.” Floto also mentions that a new sense of self-discipline and independence can contribute to the stress, triggering deeper issues.
Winter is an especially busy time of year for the Health Center and its counselors. Floto attributes the winter rush to the absence of the sun, cold weather and people’s unwillingness to go outside. “The sun makes people feel good. When it’s not around, people are more likely to feel depressed.”
Seasonal Defective Disorder (SAD) is an episode of depression that occurs during late fall or winter and usually ceases during warmer seasons. The direct cause is unknown, but believed to be caused by lack of light, body temperature and hormone regulation. The symptoms go hand in hand with depression, such as decrease in energy, increase appetite and sleep and social withdrawal.
Beloit College can help combat SAD with the Light Therapy Room, which is very popular and used every day by students. The treatment for SAD is to sit in a room with overhead full-spectrum lightbulbs that mimic the sun while your body absorbs the light. Twenty minutes is all you need for a feel-good treatment. You can use the room any time during Health Center hours, just stop at the front desk and ask to use it.
Aside from using the SAD lights, the Health Center offers six free counseling sessions per semester; and if more help is needed, off-campus mental health facilities are often referred to students.
To combat depression and the blues, Floto recommends “taking time for things that are not related with class or studying. Take a walk purely for enjoyment. Being aware of your surroundings really helps. And of course, alcohol is a culprit. Learn to avoid it.”
For more information about counseling services, stop by the Health Center Monday through Friday between 8:30 a.m. to noon and 1:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. To make an appointment, call the Health Center at (608) 363-2331.