College: The Happiest Years of Your Life?

By Cheyenne Johnson
Staff Writer

Photo Courtesy UCSB Counseling Services

One of the biggest challenges many people face upon entering college is learning how to prioritize and know when to work and to play. Especially around the weekends, stressed-out students like to throw their worries to the wayside and forget about their troubles by going to the beach, partying, heading downtown or just hanging out with friends. However, recent studies show that another method is also increasingly being used.

A report from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention shows that anti-depressant use has risen almost 400 percent in the last 20 years and is now the most frequently used medication among 18 to 44-year-olds.

Surveys from the National Center for Health Statistics found that 11 percent of Americans 12 and older are taking anti-depressant medication. Women are more likely to take the medication than men and more than 60 percent of Americans taking the medication have taken it for two years or longer. Surprisingly, it was also found that less than a third of the individuals taking anti-depression medication have seen a mental health professional in the past year, suggesting that individuals are given the medication and then cease seeking psychological help afterwards.

Considering that the age range of 18 to 44-year-olds encompasses the college demographic represented at the University of California Santa Barbara, it reflects directly the impact of depression on campus.

Steve Ino, a UCSB psychologist working in the Counseling Center, says that depression has a tendency to appear in the college years as a result of changing biological processes.

“Biologically, depression tends to pop up at this age,” Ino said. As a psychologist, Ino said that he does not give prescriptions for medications to the students he sees, but he can refer them to the Health Center and a psychiatrist who could better determine the causes and needs of the students.

Ino added that he believes the economy may be causing the increase in medication, but that a leading reason is that this generation is less likely to hide their depression and assume they will get over it on their own.

“In past years, there was a stigma attached to depression that isn’t as prevalent today,” Ino said.

Depression commercials and ads, like the cartoon commercial for Abilify that uses a black blob to symbolize depression, have become commonplace on television and the Internet. The list has been growing and now includes Abilify, Cymbalta, Pristiq, Zoloft, Prozac and more than 20 others. While many of them are rarely heard of outside of the medical profession, depression ads and the medications they encourage have been brought to the majority’s attention.

For Cristabel Jauregui, a second-year UCSB student, the decision on whether or not a person needs medication is a complicated decision, one that re?ects the general misunderstanding of the causes and treatments.

“It’s not really the youth of today becoming increasingly sad, it’s their situations becoming increasingly misunderstood coupled with the fact that doctors aren’t trained in that area of helping,” she said. “The truth is there is no other form of treatment except for therapy.”

Ino stresses that eating right, getting enough exercise and sleep, socializing and ?nding ways to reduce stress are the best ways for students to avoid depression and to keep college life from being anymore worrisome than it already is.

Elizabeth Hawkins, a mother of a UCSB student who, in an attempt to manage her depression, used the counseling services on campus, believes that therapy is the best option to treat depression.

“Anti-depressants shouldn’t be used on teenagers or young adults,” she said. “They affect the mind and change a person.”