About seven years ago, my father was diagnosed with clinical depression. I was a sophomore in high school with absolutely no idea exactly what that entailed. My family and I were devastated to hear that he had been silently battling this illness for years and had never expressed it until he checked himself into a clinic in 2010.

I had assumed therapy and medication would be the key to his emotional relief. I thought it was that simple, and that, like most illnesses, it could be cured through medicine. However, this is not the case at all. Depression is a lingering illness that hangs over a person’s head and clouds their everyday life with dark and self-deprecating thoughts. There are good days, bad days and a spectrum that waits in between. Over the last seven years, my family and I have been learning and growing with my father to help him battle through his worst days.

It’s unfortunate that so many people still believe that depression is a condition that people can just snap out of. It’s not. It’s consuming and suffocating. It can bring a person to dangerous brinks and it’s time we all learned how to do the best we can to help our friends and loved ones by giving them as much support as we possibly can.

First of all, it’s important to recognize warning signs, if a person is expressing any at all. Depression symptoms are not the same in everyone. For some, you may see lashing out in anger. For others, you may see a withdrawal from once loved activities, personal isolation or the neglecting of daily tasks such as personal hygiene. The signs and symptoms range and vary in each person, but if you suspect any or all of these signs in a loved one, it’s very important to reach out and extend support.

On campus, psychological services are readily available and easily obtainable for students. The clinic is located by the Student Health Center next to the Memorial Gym. It’s hours of operation are Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

It’s important to approach every situation with caution and to be gentle when suggesting health services or extra support. When interacting with a depressed loved one, the most important factor to consider is that simply listening to them is a powerful act. You don’t have to “fix” a situation or give an overwhelming amount of advice. In a lot of cases, sitting and listening to what a person has to say aids a great deal.

It’s crucial to remember that depression is an illness. It can make a person feel even more helpless if you say hurtful or passive sentiments. Being present and checking-up on your loved one is so important. Shoot them a text, ask to catch up and most importantly, remember that you are not a professional. You can offer as much support as possible, but a large goal on the road to beating depression is seeking the advice of a professional psychologist.

If you or someone you know may be depressed, help is available. There’s absolutely no shame in reaching out and finding support. You are not alone and you do not have to live in fear. As helpless as you may feel and as bleak as it may seem now, there are people who love you and want to help you. Seek support, listen, be present and be kind. Depression is one of the most serious conditions we face as college students, but we can combat it. We can end the cycle.

Email Courtney Casey at cp@cardinalpointsonline.com

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