Columnist tackles depression, the unwanted friend


Depression disguises itself at first.

It establishes a presence that grows increasingly malignant, like a tumor. It slowly warps someone’s thoughts and actions until what they say and do are entirely uncharacteristic of who they were before depression began to take hold.

It is a sickness that has no obvious side effects and few common symptoms, yet it is the third leading cause of death for people aged 15 to 24, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

When depression hits, we spend most of our time fighting and suppressing what it tells and does to us, even around our friends and families. 

There is a reason depression hits college kids so hard: they are unfamiliar with their new environment.

It does not matter if they are attending their hometown college, flew over half the continent or even an ocean. They are in a new social hierarchy and around brand new people.

Why should they trust those around them with their deepest insecurities? Who is to say whether or not these new people would even understand them in the first place?

Depression is the friend they do not want anyone else to know about. 

If they tell anyone the two of them are acquaintances, they are afraid people will think less of them. Someone might lie to their loved ones, avoid their friends if necessary, to conserve their relationship with depression. 

The stigma around mental health issues is what drives them to do it.

Where does this fit in among college students? Anywhere and everywhere.

After experiencing the darkest side of my own depression, I realized that things got worse when transparency about my mental health went out the window.

I did fine in my classes, cracked occasional jokes and I still spent time with classmates and friends, which allowed me to convince myself that I was OK. When summer came along, and I no longer needed to keep up face, I still told myself that I was able to deal with my insecurity in the public eye.

Antidepressant advertisements paint an understandably bleak picture of depression. People withdrawing from social interaction, missing classes and staying in bed all day can definitely be depressed.

But so can the student acing his classes, a star-athlete or the worker who just received a promotion. Success does not retain the same kind of self-redeeming qualities it once did. The person might say that it was just a fluke or that whatever they accomplished doesn’t matter that much in the first place.

The fact is, many of us are simply not equipped to deal with our problems alone and should learn to use the support systems made available to us.

Find your closest friend, an understanding teacher or even consider contacting a therapist. These people can help you cope with the stress that accompanies everyday life or perhaps something much more severe.

Benjamin M. Hummel is an English and speech & communications major at SDSU and can be reached at [email protected].