Student anxiety, depression trend upward

A Civic Project story

Autumn E. Race, child development and family relations major at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, in her off-campus apartment, Dec. 5, 2016. Photo by Nina McNavish.

Autumn E. Race, child development and family relations major at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, in her off-campus apartment, Dec. 5, 2016. Photo by Nina McNavish.

By Nina McNavish

INDIANA¬ — Autumn E. Race, 20, an Indiana University of Pennsylvania junior, child development and family relations major, was a freshman when life took a turn for the worse.

“After going through the craziest break-up of my life, I had no idea what to do or who to talk to,” Race said during an interview Nov.1 at her off-campus apartment.

She had trouble sleeping, she said. She had no desire to attend classes. She lost her appetite.

She was clinically depressed.

Depression is not like a paper cut that heals in a day. It’s more like a broken bone. It takes time to heal. Race had to take time to deal with the obstacles of everyday life.

“I knew that I had to keep up with my everyday routine,” Race said. “But, honestly, I felt like I couldn’t.”

She sought help from the IUP Counseling Center.

 

DEPRESSION is more than feeling sad or going through a rough patch. It’s a serious mental health condition that requires understanding, treatment and a good recovery plan, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, a non-profit that claims to be the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization.

Depression is one of the most common mental health disorders in the United States, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, a non-profit organization based in Silver Spring, Md.

“In 2015, around 16.1 million adults age 18 or older in the U.S. had experienced at least one major depressive episode in the last year, which represented 6.7 percent of all American adults,” according to the National Institute of Mental Health, a leading federal agency for research on mental disorders.

If 6.7 percent of IUP’s 12,853 undergraduates were depressed at some point in the past year, then about 860 students were affected. During the 2015-2016 academic year, about half that number — 424 students — were treated at the IUP Counseling Center, said David E. Myers, a center psychologist.

David M. Meyers, psychologist at the IUP Counseling Center, Nov. 8, 2016. Photo by Nina McNavish.

David M. Meyers, psychologist at the IUP Counseling Center, Nov. 8, 2016. Photo by Nina McNavish.

Anxiety was the most common concern, with 162 cases, Myers reported. Depression was second, with 122 cases,

“If you think of anxiety and depression like a Venn diagram, there is a fair portion of overlap,” Meyers said in a Sept. 8 interview at the counseling center. “I suspect in the future that the separation from anxiety and depression will get smaller and smaller, and we will start to consider them as the same disorder with sub-types.”

His student clients question who they are on the outside and whether it matches who they are on the inside, Meyers said. Many students question their career paths and majors. And they have a lot more to worry about than when he was in college.

“Anxiety of today is not like it was 10 years ago,” Meyers said. “It’s more of an existential anxiety.”

Alexis J. Peterman, 20, junior, majoring in exercise science with a minor in special education, lives every day with existential anxiety.

Alexis J. Peterman, exercise science major at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, in her off-campus apartment, Dec. 6, 2016. Photo by Nina McNavish

Alexis J. Peterman, exercise science major at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, in her off-campus apartment, Dec. 6, 2016. Photo by Nina McNavish

“I have 20 credits, I’m a part of five clubs, I’m an undergrad director for Special Needs Activity Program,” Peterman said in a Nov.18 interview at the Hadley Union Building food court. “In a year, I need to take my Graduate Record Examination , which means I need to know what I want to do with my life — which I don’t.”

 

AN IUP COUNSELOR helped Race with her depression by recommending ways to keep herself in check.

Since her last counseling session in 2014, Race said she is proceeding toward her degree and is striving to get a job at the campus day-care center, thanks to her counselor.

“She told me to keep myself busy by being with my friends or staying active through exercise and even writing down my feelings in a journal,” Race said in a Dec. 6 phone interview. “Even to this day when I feel down, I still use her advice to stay positive.”

Nina I McNavish, a junior majoring in journalism at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, is from Pittsburgh.

 

Sidebar: For more information/To get involved

The following are additional sources of help and counseling – and civic engagement — in Indiana County, Pa.:

Campus Counseling Center
David M. Myers
Associate professor and department chairman
Suites on Maple East, G31
Indiana University of Pennsylvania
901 Maple St.
Indiana, Pa. 15705
Phone: 724-357-2621
Email: dmyers@iup.edu

The Community Guidance Center
Ralph May
Chief clinical officer
793 Old Route 119 North Highway
Indiana, Pa. 15701
Phone: 724-465-5576
Email: rmay@thecgc.com

Indiana Regional Medical Center
Contact Behavioral Health Services
835 Hospital Road
Indiana, Pa. 15701
Phone: 724-357-7404

The Open Door
The Atrium – 2nd floor
665 Philadelphia St.
Indiana, Pa. 15701
Phone: 724-465-2605 (24-hours a day, seven days a week)

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