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September 18, 1995 - Image 64

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1995-09-18

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Depression:
Can you help?
BY HEATHER KEAFER
PHOTo ILLUSTRATION BY DAVE DRUSE
junior dietetics major at Temple
U., picked at her food or ate
nothing at all. She slept late -
right through 9:40 biochem and
10:50 lab, through lunch and The
Young and the Restless.
Her roommates were frustrated. They tried to
wake her up for classes and to make her eat.
Danielle wished they would leave her alone. She
didn't care anymore.
A week before finals, they found her in the bath-
room - gaunt and pale except for a bloodied left
wrist, but alive. A razor had eased the feeling of
emptiness and made the plea for help.
Depression is the leading cause of suicide, and,
according to the American Psychiatric Association,
suicide is the third leading cause of death among
15-to-24-year-olds.
Jeff Vansyckle, a psychologist with Temple
counseling services, says that most college students
he counsels have problems with ongoing depression.
"Usually it's related to academic or relationship
problems," he says.
One in four women and one in 10 men develop
depression during their lifetime. And those numbers
don't include loved ones, who can be just as affected
by the disease. Nothing prepares them for noticing
depression and helping someone through it.
"When the behavior becomes something they
cannot pull out of, it's time for friends to step in,"

says Michelle Dixon, a social worker at Philhaven
women's services in Pennsylvania.
Commonly recognized symptoms of depres-
sion include feelings of hopelessness and sadness,
loss of motivation, change in sleep patterns (either
sleeping too much or too little), loss of appetite,
low energy, poor self-esteem, worrying about the
past, irritability and loss of interest in activities
previously enjoyed.
It's tough to tell whether a friend is clinically
depressed or just sad, toknow whether to intervene
or butt out.
"I wish I had recognized it earlier as depression
and not just my roommate's personality," says one
of Danielle's roommates, Carey, a Temple senior.
"I felt limited trying to be a best friend, balanc-
ing the role of a confidant and knowing what she
really needed," Carey says.
Danielle attempted suicide twice before Carey
and other roommates involved a school counselor.
"It's normal to want to help, but know that you
cannot change things," Dixon says. She says that
when someone becomes isolated, indulges in dan-
gerous behavior or engages in suicidal acts, outside
help is needed. Many college and university coun-
seling centers treat depression.
Between 80 and 90 percent of all depressed peo-
ple respond to treatment, which can include psy-
chotherapy, medication or a combination of the
two, according to the APA. Nearly all depressed
people who get treatment see at least some relief
from their symptoms.
Depression is often as bewildering to victims as
it is to their loved ones.
"I wish my friends understood that I had no con-
trol and couldn't just snap out of it," says a female
Temple senior who is being treated for depression.
Friends who try to help can also get sucked into
depression, Dixon warns.
"Know your limitations," Dixon stresses. "Real-
ize that you cannot help the situation on your own."
Dixon suggests that friends of depression victims
do what they enjoy to help relieve stress and prevent
becoming depressed themselves.
EM iliEELC Also, it's important that friends
have support systems of their
own. Carey says that talking to
e ii friends helped her reassess the
01 situation and feel better.
Danielle has taken a semester
off from school to receive therapy.
"Show you care by taking an active
role," she advises. "Don't pretend
depression doesn't exist."
*Name has been changed
For a free pamphlet on
depression write The American
Psychiatric Association, DPA
Dept. NCM, 1400 K St. NW,
Washington, D.C. 20005.
Heather Keafer is a senior journal-
ism major at Messiah College in
Pennsylvania.

S.I

Shiny, Happy
People
The latchkey kids of the '80s are flying
into the real world with more emotional
baggage than can fit into the overhead
compartment.
There are statistics to prove it: Those
born after 1955 are three times as likely to
suffer from depression as those born before,
and since 1945, the 20-to-29 age group has
more than tripled its suicide rate. Simply
put, many members of our Breakfast Club
won't be joining us for lunch.
But now there's Prozac.
Since its introduction in 1988, Prozac
has become the second most commonly
prescribed drug in the country. And because
nonpsychiatric physicians can prescribe
Prozac, it's also being used to treat an ever-
wider range of afflictions and bad habits -
smoking, PMS, weight control, premature
ejaculation, you name it.
But despite its versatility and impressive
65 percent success rate in treating depres-
sion, everyone reacts differently to the won-
der drug of the '90s. Sally, an Orange Coast
College junior, had quit school, used
amphetamines and cocaine, was bulimic
and fought constantly with family and
friends. Today, two years after going on
Prozac, Sally is a drug-free 4.0 student who
enjoys a happy, productive life.
Then there's Lillian, a recent U. of Texas
graduate who found Prozac's side effects to
be nothing but trouble.

"It screwed up my sex life," Lillian says.
"I was no longer orgasmic."
This is a consequence that often divides
users along gender lines. Women are irked
by the reduction of sexual sensation, while
guys claim Prozac makes them Energizer
bunnies of love.
Surprisingly, it's not cases like Lillian
that concern skeptics, but success stories
like Sally's. Critics worry about the long-
term effects of taking Prozac. Some fear
future medical problems, while others envi-
sion a New World Order society of passion-
less robots.
Ridiculous? Yes. But these concerns are
valid, since Prozac will undoubtedly alter
the events that unfold in our lifetime. The
question for our generation is: Will the
change be for better or worse?
If a substantial portion of the population
is on Prozac, how will that affect, say, poli-
tics? Would John F. Kennedy have been
voted in by an electorate of Prozac poppers?
If so, would Oswald, if on Prozac, still have
assassinated him? Would a chemically bal-
anced Jim Morrison still have written "The
End," then overdosed himself into oblivion?
Or would he have written more sanguine
pop songs ("A Fresh Start"?) and be partici-
pating in a joint reunion tour with the Eagles
right about now?
As we bravely march toward the end of
the millennium, Prozac, for better or worse,
is now part of our arsenal. And like any
device, it is only as helpful or destructive as
the person who uses it.
By James Hibberd, U. of Texas, Austin

22 U. Magazine " August/September 1995

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