Depression doesn’t just happen to people in bad situations. Robert Firth describes how Will, a popular and clever student, struggled with the illness alone.
Will was having the best time ever at university, so when I met up with him during the summer break and he told me he hadn’t sat his exams because he was suffering from depression, I didn’t get it. Depression happened to people with terrible lives. Will’s life wasn’t terrible. He was popular, intelligent and interesting.
People just not getting it is something Will has become familiar with. “Someone in my house was talking about it and they were like ‘I don’t know why he doesn’t snap out of it’ but I haven’t got the chemical in my brain to elicit that response… depression is often followed by a physiological aspect, hormones in your body, lack of B12, lack of iron.”
This often overlooked physiological element of depression is part of what makes living the caffeine- and sugar-powered university lifestyle so difficult when you’ve got it. “The more the depression gets to you, the less easy it gets to do normal tasks like get up, get on a bus, because you haven’t got the energy,” Will says.
It’s easy to see how quickly people isolate themselves: not going into university means people forget you, which means you don’t get invited to things, which means there’s no reason to get up in the morning.
Will tells me that a video made by YouTube personality TomSka called “I Am Depressed” helped him greatly in realising his depression. It was an apathy to living which TomSka talks about that Will related to.
However, Will’s path from recognition to treatment was far from simple, with GPs writing off feelings of apathy as typical teen behavior and exam anxiety. “You kind of go under the radar unless you’ve got someone fighting your corner for you.”
Perversely, the effects of depression mean that most sufferers are unlikely to have the energy to fight this battle themselves.
One in five women will suffer from depression in their lives—twice as many as men, yet in 2012 the UK male suicide rate was 3.5 times that of women. The reasons for this are numerous, yet one point to note is that the talking focused approach of many support services at universities, such as Nightline and Counselling Services, don’t appeal to men.
“It’s the rationale,” Will says. “Women think that by talking about something they can take on help, whereas men don’t expect to get help, they just report the thing.” It’s concerning then that when people like Will are reporting symptoms of depression to GPs, these are being dismissed as merely exam stress.
For Will, getting the treatment he needs has helped him and ensured he returns to University this year. However, it is clear that the systems for accessing treatment need to be better. Talking helps, but not everyone all the time: “I know that talking about something won’t really help me because I know that the only things that can help are therapy and drugs.”
To anyone who thinks they may have depression, Will says putting things aside and getting help is what matters. “You need to do whatever… and just focus on getting better, because if you dig yourself into a hole you end up where all the people in them statistics are, where you feel you can’t cope and you go for the quick way out at the time; and that’s irreversible.”
If you’re feeling depressed:Immediately register with a local GP and book an appointment to see them.
Confidential and anonymous listening service ran by students for students
0161 275 3983 (8pm-8am term time)
UoM Counselling Service
The university’s own group of counsellors and therapists providing confidential advice and support to students. Located on Floor 5 of the Crawford Building.
24 hour confidential support service for anyone suffering distressing or suicidal thoughts.
08457 90 90 90
Clear and concise information about Symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of Depression from the NHS:http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/depression/Pages/Introduction.aspx
Names have been changed to protect the individual’s privacy.