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Beat the ‘winter blues’

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By Rachael Huffman – Collegiate Staff

Short days, cold weather, dark colors. Seasonal depression, sometimes referred to as the “winter blues” is most likely to occur in the next few months. This type of depression is only brought on by the dark season of winter, and because it’s seasonal, the feeling usually goes away after a while. Depression itself is a disease that many students don’t know how to handle.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), depression is the leading disability today, and is a major contributor to the global burden of disease. Over 350 million people worldwide suffer from depression.

Depression can be caused by any combination of genetics, brain chemistry, situations in life, and attitude, such as a pessimistic outlook on life or low-self esteem. Gender also plays a role. Women are twice as likely as men to experience depression and can experience postpartum depression.

“It’s difficult to identify the specific causes of an individual’s depression,” said Emily A. Nisley, Licensed Professional Counselor and academic adviser in the Counseling and Career Center at Grand Rapids Community College. With a Ph.D. in counseling psychology from Western Michigan University, Nisley provides personal and career counseling to students.

“Some people may be predisposed to developing depression due to genetic factors and/or personality characteristics, and environmental stressors are often involved,” Nisley said.  “The college environment, for example, can be very exciting, but also stressful, with the pressure of tests and assignments, and the challenges of fulfilling school, work, and home responsibilities.

“It’s not unusual for college students to face identity concerns, ups and downs in relationships, or financial strains,” Nisley said. “Adequate social support and coping skills, or lack thereof, can make a difference in whether or not a student experiences depression. Health issues such as hypothyroidism, as well as alcohol and drug use, can also impact brain chemistry and contribute to depression.”

Nisley described how depression affects more than just mood and can be especially difficult for college students.

“Many of the symptoms of depression, such as diminished interest and motivation, sleep disturbances, increased fatigue, and decreased ability to concentrate, can make it difficult to do well in classes,” Nisley said.

Nisley adds that it is important to identify the symptoms and get help.

“Some depressed individuals withdraw socially and might not ask for the help they need,” Nisley said. “Students with depression are at increased risk of suicide.”

Fortunately, there are many resources available for students at GRCC.

“Depression is treatable, often through psychotherapy, antidepressant medication, or both,” Nisley said. “In cases of mild to moderate depression, licensed counselors in the Counseling and Career Center offer free, short-term personal counseling for current GRCC students. In more severe cases and/or when other factors suggest a student would benefit from more intensive or longer-term care, GRCC counselors provide referrals and help students connect with mental health care providers off-campus.”

To schedule a personal counseling appointment, visit the Counseling and Career Center in 327 Student Center or call 616-234-3900.

In an after-hours mental health crisis, call Network 180 24-Hour Help-Line 616-336-3535 or go to the nearest hospital emergency room.

To contact the 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline call 1-800-273-8255