Faculty and students offer advice to the depressed at UNC Asheville

By Calla Hinton, contributor
Faculty and students at UNC Asheville agree depression is a serious problem for college students, but say there are outlets on campus for students to turn to in order to seek help.
“Everybody struggles and it’s alright to say, ‘Hey, I’m struggling with my mental health,’ or, ‘My relationships aren’t going that great,’ and just asking for help,” said Jackie McHargue, dean of students at UNCA.
According to a study by the American College Health Association in 2011, approximately 30 percent of college students reported they felt so depressed that it was difficult to function.
“Everyone goes through some form of depression. I guarantee it. I don’t think college-aged students suffer from it the most, but we definitely make up a vast portion of those who do,” said Abby Powell, a UNCA student.
Officials from the counseling center at UNCA said they offer an assessment of students’ mental needs, after which they will recommend other services, such as individual or group therapy sessions.
“If you are struggling on any level emotionally, go see someone in our counseling center. You shouldn’t wait until you’re an absolute wreck. They can really provide skills and great resources to help prevent you from reaching that point,” McHargue said.
Colleges are shedding more light on the previously hidden subjects of depression and suicide, as North Carolina State University recently held its second annual Suicide Prevention Vigil in wake of the recent suicide of one of its students.
North Carolina State’s counseling center urges students to use #StopTheStigma on social media in order to persuade more depressed students to seek help before it gets out of hand.
“At UNCA I felt like social stigmas placed on mental issues were certainly torn down. However, you have to remember that not every environment is perfect, so there will still be some perpetuating of them,” said Sidney Jones, former UNCA student.
In the same 2011 study by the ACHA, more than 6 percent of college students said they seriously considered suicide, with around 1 percent saying that they had attempted suicide in the past year.
“If you’re not healthy and well and you aren’t doing alright in school, then you’re going to be less helpful for those that you’re trying to support. What can happen is that you wind up not being here, so now you don’t get to support anybody,” McHargue said.
According to Emory University’s “Emory Cares 4 U” program, suicide is the third highest cause of death among people aged 15 to 24.
“I think that in order to help prevent suicide, I guess you should just know some basic signs of depression and suicidal tendencies, and how or when to reach out to someone,” said Powell, an Embark orientation leader.
An important factor when it comes to dealing with depression in college is to be realistic when it comes to what your triggers are, and to try to avoid them as best possible, McHargue said.
“Sometimes we’re trained to not ask for help and that’s just the biggest message I think I would want students to hear,” McHargue said. “Just ask, talk to people, tell people that you’re struggling, and don’t be afraid to ask for help because the resources are here.”