We’ve just started a new academic year! Enthusiastic freshers have a twinkle in their eye, eager to begin a new phase of life, make lifelong friends, and pursue passions… but as the novelty of university life clears we see that there’s something very wrong. A dark haze creeps in, looms over, and overwhelms.
Hello fresher, meet depression.
If they don't have it, a friend does. There's no denying the numbers; the University of Nottingham Counselling Service Annual Report consistently shows 5% more students crying for help. Every. Year. The report clearly acknowledges the necessity to adapt the service in order to hear their call. But with "anxiety about academic issues" not even being in the top five reasons for attending counselling you need to question what is happening. The usual culprits are anxiety, low mood, and family issues. Is this the struggles of adapting to the stress of university life? No, with the rise of teenage and even child mental disorders we can assume depression and the fresher go way back.
Depression is no stranger to most people growing up these days. More people of all ages are going to therapy and with role models like Stephen Fry leading the way, openness and discussion about depression is becoming less intimidating. Today's culture is anxiety culture; seeing a psychiatrist a national pastime; therapy, a common interest. However, Counsellor Mel Schwartz claims that what many call depression and anxiety is the symptom of a "destructive worldview". Pointing out, along with psychiatrist Peter Kramer how "depression magically skyrocketed after the drug industry introduced SSRIs and that diagnostic criteria can't distinguish between depression and grief".
Children, therefore are increasingly being influenced by depressed adults. In a culture that likes to talk about depression, sadness seems ubiquitous and even inevitable; suicidal jokes to "give-up and kys" become memes.
If that's not depressing, I don't know what is.
The enthusiastic fresher may have a slightly dimmer twinkle in their eye than we once thought. But university will always be a chance at a fresh start, and for many, the first opportunity for free, professional help.