Depression is a whole-body illness. It affects mood, thought, body, and behavior. It has medical causes just as heart disease and skin cancer do. And just like heart disease or skin cancer, depression won't go away by itself; it is not something you can just "get over." Depression is not a sign of personal weakness. A person does not have to feel suicidal to be depressed. Research shows that one in ten people in the United States suffers from depression; however, nearly two thirds do not get help or treatment.

"Sadness is a part of it, but you can be sad without being depressed. Depression is deeper and more encompassing.”
-- Judith Belushi Pisano


What are some symptoms of depression?

Each person who is depressed does not experience every symptom. Some people experience just a few symptoms, while others may experience many. Some examples of depression symptoms include:

Physical:
  • changes in sleeping and/or eating patterns: much more or much less
  • fatigue or loss of energy
  • headaches, stomachaches or otherwise inexplicable aches and pains
Behavioral/Attitude:
  • diminished interest in and enjoyment of previously pleasurable activities, for example, sex, sports, hobbies, going out
  • difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • neglecting responsibilities and personal appearance
Emotional:
  • depressed mood can mean feeling down, irritable, pessimistic, negative, guilty, anxious, empty, etc.
  • suicidal thoughts
  • feeling helpless and hopeless
There are as many as 15 percent of college students who have symptoms of depression, and about 10 percent of college students arrive on campus with a history of depression.
(Source:  Michigan Medicine, University of Michigan)

What are some of the causes?
The causes of clinical depression, like the symptoms, are different for each person. Sometimes a depressive episode can appear to come out of nowhere at a time when everything seems to be going fine.Other times, depression may be directly related to a significant event in our lives. 

Here are just a few examples of such significant events:
  • death of a family member or close friend
  • an assault, car accident or painful physical event
  • a painful mental or emotional event
  • marriage breakup or love that is suddenly lost
  • constant physical, mental, or emotional pain that goes on for a length of time
  • major financial setback
 How can I make my life easier? 
  • Recognize that there may be certain times of the day when you feel better and use that to your advantage.
  • Break large tasks into smaller ones; set priorities and take things one at a time; avoid taking on too much responsibility and setting overly difficult goals.
  • Try not to expect too much from yourself so as to lessen any feeling of failure you may have.
  • Activities such as exercise, attending sports or cultural events or participating in a religious or social event can help you feel better. It is important not to overdo it. Feeling better takes time.
  • Avoid alcohol and non-prescribed drugs. This kind of self-medication may provide a temporary "high" or relief but in the end will intensify depression.            

Where can I go for help?

IF YOU ARE SUICIDAL OR IF YOU ARE AFRAID YOU WILL HURT YOURSELF OR SOMEONE ELSE, GO DIRECTLY TO YOUR LOCAL EMERGENCY ROOM. 
Among young adults 20 to 24 years of age, the suicide rate is 12.8 out of 100,000.
 (National Institute of Mental Health, 2002)
If you are using alcohol or drugs to help you feel better, seek professional help.
  • USCA Counseling Center (641-3609):  Free, confidential counseling for USCA students
  • Aiken County Helpline (dial 211 or 648-9900):  Volunteers can refer you to local agencies.
  • Aurora Pavilion Behavioral Health Services (641-5900), located at Aiken Regional Medical Centers on University Parkway
  • Aiken-Barnwell Mental Health      Aiken: 641-7700      North Augusta: 278-0880       Barnwell: 259-7170 or 259-2455

Helping a Depressed Friend –  What Can I Do?
The best thing you can do for a depressed friend is to help him or her get treatment. This may involve encouraging the person to seek professional help or to stay in treatment once it has begun. The next best thing is to offer emotional support. This involves understanding, patience, affection, and encouragement. Engage him/her in conversation or activities.  Remind your friend that, with time and help, he or she WILL feel better.

Additional information:
Mental Health America Online Depression Screening http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/llw/depression_screen.cfm