Are students depressed?

Last semester, I went through a rough patch that left me emotionally rattled. I was excommunicated by my friends after a rough fallout, and as a result, was left isolated. To my parents, who were coping with my grandmother’s hospitalization, my situation would have seemed trivial; it was anything but. I know how it feels to not have anyone understand your situation; to be abandoned. I know what it feels like to be a university student suffering from depression, just like many others before me, and others to come.

A CBC report published earlier this month revealed that the consumption of antidepressants among university students has soared, and they are now consumed more frequently than birth control. University of Ottawa students, for example, spent about $119,049 on antidepressants last year. This exceeds the total amount spent on skin products, antibiotics, and attention deficit disorder drugs.

It is difficult to pinpoint what led to such escalation in antidepressant prescriptions, which, according to a study done by University of Toronto, have risen consistently by at least 1 per cent every year. Over the past few years, an increased social awareness of mental health has reduced some of the stigma of depression and, as a result, has given more students the opportunity to seek clinical consultations without being judged by their peers.

Among a myriad of reasons why many students suffer from depression and turn to antidepressants, the stress imposed by financial burden seemed to be the most common.

According to Ann-Marie Roy, vice president communications at the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa, costly tuition fees force some students to work part-time while juggling their academics. The stress of trying to balance work and academics can take a psychological toll on students. Those who can’t handle it – and are often struggling with depression as a result – look to antidepressants as a concrete solution for their problem.

However, depression does not exclusively target those who are less financially privileged. Murray Sang, director of the Student Academic Success Services at the University of Ottawa, believes that most parents who smother their children, and ‘pamper’ them, leave them at a loss when they are posed the problem of facing life on their own. Sang says, “The transition to university is challenging and students are not prepared with resiliency.” The  result, oftentimes, is depression.

It is important not to consume antidepressants haphazardly based on the assumption that depression is simply a chemical imbalance of neurotransmitters, which can be solved by drug intake. As the benefits and dangers of antidepressants remain inconclusive, students should be informed of potential consequences, such as nausea, insomnia, and digestive problems.