Imagine that you’re walking to class on an icy December morning. Suddenly, you lose your footing and slip down a flight of stairs, painfully breaking your arm. Obviously you’re going to be excused from your classes for the day, since you’ve just broken your arm.
Imagine again that it’s the same day, but this time you’re not outside. You’re sitting in your dorm room, having a panic attack. You don’t know what you’re going to do since you have class in less than ten minutes. You can’t breathe, you can’t stop crying, and your chest feels like it’s going to explode. But you still need to go to class, since this isn’t a “valid excuse.”
The question here is: why don’t we treat mental illnesses as seriously as we treat physical ones? It’s a recurring question, especially in the college-aged community, where depression and anxiety disorders run rampant.
The obvious answer here is that physical ailments and illnesses are (usually) visible, so people are more likely to take them seriously. A person with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) doesn’t necessarily look like they’re depressed all the time.
Now, if one were to look past the surface, they would see that people with depressive disorders actually have noticable differences that pop up on brain scans, including decreased activity levels. And these disorders actually do have a plethora of physical effects including insomnia, decreased energy, and persistent headaches.
The issue of being excused from class for these disorders really depends on the professor. If you explain the situation to your professor and they’re a genuinely good person, then they should understand and allow you to make up work. If they’re one of those professors that makes you bring a prayer card from your grandmother’s funeral, then they’re already just a terrible person without a soul.
The other issue is the people without these disorders who use them as a fallback or an excuse. Depression and anxiety disorders are not a joke and shouldn’t be used as an excuse just because you wanted to skip class to go to the mall.
In this modern era, depressive disorders should be taken with the highest amount of seriousness. Even though it’s not always visible, depression kills. Among college students, suicide is the second leading cause of death, with traffic accidents being the first. A CBS article from 2018 stated that one in five college students have seriously considered suicide.
And honestly, it’s not that surprising when going over all of the stressors that are placed upon us. Tuition has skyrocketed since the 70s/80s, which leads to many students taking on multiple jobs along with juggling school work and relationships. It’s most definitely not an easy thing to do.
Personally, as an individual with a bucket full of issues including MDD, Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and Panic Disorder, I understand how it feels to be so depressed that you literally can’t get out of bed. It’s absolutely awful, because part of you is saying, “I really need to go to class” and the other side is just telling you that it’s not worth it and that there’s really no point in going. People can try to understand what you’re going through, but the only people who can really comprehend it are those who are going through the same thing.
It’s difficult, but there are always going to be people who just tell you to “get better,” even though it’s not that simple. Despite how simplistic it sounds, you just have to keep pushing on. If someone told me a few years ago that I’d be where I am now, I wouldn’t believe them. Things really do get better, even if it’s only little by little.
Another important point is to look out for your friends. If your friend is constantly saying how life would be better without them, have a serious talk with them. Or find someone who can help, like a counselor or a person you both trust. Take them seriously and don’t just shrug them off.
And if you’re feeling suicidal or really depressed, there’s tons of resources available for you, including The Counseling Center in SSC. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text the Crisis Text Line 741-741.
Being a college student is extremely hard, especially with finals coming up quickly. Yes, it’s cliche, but know that you’re really never alone and that there’s always someone out there who cares about you. Good luck with finals everyone and have a great summer!