By ANDREW SOULSBY
We all feel blue, under the weather, or down in the dumps occasionally, but for the clinically depressed, it can last several weeks to months at a time.
Marshall Chanda is a counsellor at Doon, who describes depression as “a state or a mood or a set of symptoms that affects someone’s overall ability to function and cope on a day-to-day basis.” For students, a bout of depression could be hazardous to their education.
According to Chanda, visible symptoms of depression exist such as frequent crying and tiredness; however, most symptoms aren’t so obvious. Behavioral symptoms such as withdrawal from relationships, increasingly isolated behavior and changes in diet and sleep patterns are also signs that someone may be depressed. Further, he added, “if a person is left untreated and symptoms persist and worsen, it can develop to the point where someone can actually have suicidal thoughts.”
Due to the complexity of depression and the myriad of people it affects, treatments are similarly varied and often combined for the best results. However, as a first step, Chanda maintains regular exercise and healthy eating habits play key roles in maintaining positive mental health. According to an article published on the BBC website in 2008, a survey of 200 British doctors revealed 22 per cent of them suggested exercise as treatment for milder cases of depression. This is up from four per cent three years prior.
“It can’t be overstated how important exercise is to a person’s overall well-being,” said Chanda.
For more severe cases of depression, counselling or psychological therapy in tandem with anti-depressant medications are considered the best treatment by Health Canada. However, according to Dr. Anne-Marie Mingiardi, one of Conestoga’s doctors, going on anti-depressant medication is a “very serious decision,” adding that a family physician should be consulted for information about expectations and potential side-effects.
According to healthguide.org, a non-profit website that provides solutions to health challenges, all anti-depressant medications have side-effects. For some people, the effects can be so severe that they stop taking the medication altogether. Some side-effects include: nausea, constipation, dry mouth, decreased sex drive and anxiety. While some side-effects subside over the course of a few weeks, some may get worse.
A study entitled Initial Severity and Antidepressant Benefits: A Meta-Analysis of Data Submitted to the Food and Drug Administration was published in 2008 in a peer reviewed medical journal known as PloS. The research discovered anti-depressant medication and their placebo counterparts had little to no effect on cases of moderate to severe depression. It gets worse. Healthguide.org further states that in some cases, anti-depressant medications have the opposite effect on some people, increasing the severity of depression and thus the likelihood of suicidal thoughts.
If you’re feeling depressed and are unsure of what to do, make an appointment with your campus’s counselling office. At the Doon campus, an appointment can be made in person in the Student Life Centre at Room 1A101, or by phone at 519-748-5220, ext. 3360. At Waterloo, you can visit the administration main office or by calling 519-885-0300, ext. 224. And finally, at Guelph, you can reach counsellors in the administration offices or by phone at 519-824-9390, ext. 148.
“In general, if a person feels as though something is wrong, or if something isn’t working for whatever reason, then that is enough of a clue to come and talk to someone,” said Chanda.