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A walk on the dark side of university life

Depression is a problem which touches many lives - young, old, secure, insecure, popular or lonely. Cocooned in a campus bubble, not all students are not exempt from the effects of depression.

The Birmingham Post via NewsEdge Corporation :

Depression is a problem which touches many lives - young, old, secure, insecure, popular or lonely. Cocooned in a campus bubble, not all students are not exempt from the effects of depression. Students become depressed for many reasons.

Students Against Depression is a website which provides detailed information about depression, as well as a forum and sufferers' real stories.

It is owned by the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust, a national charity which focuses on raising awareness of depression, reducing stigma, and developing depression resources.

Chloe Forbes, spokeswoman for Students Against Depression, said: "Depression can be because of exam time or students receiving results back.

"For many first-years, they realise that there is considerable work to be done and feel the pressure of managing the demands of the peer-pressures of student life with the demands of academic work."

She explained that issues such as stress, unfamiliar surroundings, lack of family support and even bad weather can lead to low moods, anger and anxiety.

As recently as 20 years ago, scientists believed that youngsters could not suffer from the illness. However, a 2003 survey by the Mental Health Foundation showed that 12 per cent of male university students and 15 per cent of female university students suffered from clinical depression.

Michael Lord, project director of the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust, said: "As the number of graduates increases to match the Government target of 50 per cent in tertiary education, and as universities and colleges seek to recruit more overseas students, partly for funding reasons, so the likelihood of students to suffer from depression etc will increase as, at the lower entry levels, they may not be equipped to cope.

"In a survey of 50 students, the three issues which raised the most concern were relationships within the family, home sickness and financial worries. The average student leaves university more than pounds 13,000 in debt.

"One third-year student, who suffered from depression in her second year at Birmingham University, said: "All the pressures of work got completely on top of me. I didn't do anything about it because of the stigmas and I felt ashamed.

"I eventually got help because it was taking over my life. I went to the GP and he told me all about the university's counselling service, so I registered.

"They see you for five 50- minute sessions where you can talk about anything. At the end of the five sessions they say whether you need to carry on, or you can request it. They also run group sessions on confidence building, anxiety, and even help with your dissertation."

Jean Turner, acting director of student support and counselling service at Birmingham University, said: "We offer a free, confidential service with fully qualified counsellors. We provide one-to-one counselling, group sessions and workshops."

More than 1,600 students registered with the service last year, with around 450 presenting symptoms of anxiety and depression.

With many celebrities such as Stephen Fry and Michael Barrymore sharing their experiences, depression is becoming more wildly recognised.

According to NHS Direct, there can be psychological, physical and social symptoms of depression.

Lesser known ones can include avoiding contact with friends, changes to the female menstrual cycle, slowed movement and speech, feeling irritable and intolerant of others and a difficulty in making decisions.

More common symptoms are feelings of hopelessness, low self-esteem, lack of energy and motivation, suicidal thoughts and changes in appetite and weight.
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