083019.McSpadden.DepressionContagion

College can be a stressful atmosphere, and it can often put extra strain on the mental state of students.

Students often struggle with mental health issues in college. Depression, in particular, is common among students and can affect both the person with depression and those around them.

Many college students experience depression, Kyle Schindler, staff psychologist at the Texas Tech Student Counseling Center, said.

“We see many students with depression,” Schindler said. “It is one of the most common concerns we will see here at the Counseling Center.”

Interpersonal relationships are important to the mental state of someone who is experiencing depression, Schindler said. Many people rely on those around them for mood management.  

Having supportive people is an important aspect for properly managing depression, Christian Enevoldsen, licensed professional counselor at Family Counseling Services, said. It can also have negative effects on the people around the person with depression.  

“It affects everyone in that circle,” Enevoldsen said. “We need to not only support those who are working to work through their depression and working to find a course of treatment for them, but also work to support those around that person. Supporting the people around you is always a great skill to have.”

Depression, in actuality, is not directly contagious, Schindler said.  

A person who is more susceptible to stress can have those feelings develop into depressed moods, Schindler said. Consistently supporting someone who is constantly feeling low can add additional stress to one’s life.  

“Having a friend who’s depressed, it is definitely good to support that person,” Schindler said. “But over time, it can be difficult, emotionally, to see someone suffering.”

Friends and family sometimes strain themselves in order to support their loved one who is suffering from depression, Melinda Kerr, licensed professional counselor who owns a private practice, said.  

“What I’ve found is the closer the relationship and the more shared life stress they have, the more that it is contagious,” Kerr said. “So, it is really important that they have good coping mechanisms.”  

Someone who is caring for a depressed loved one can continue to give their support, Schindler said. That person also must engage in self-care to support themselves and set boundaries for their own well-being.  

Mental health practitioners are also encouraged to engage in self-care, Schindler said. A balance must be achieved within any relationship between one who receives help and one who gives help.  

Often, those suffering from depression can feel as if they have become a burden to their loved ones, Schindler said.  

“I don’t think it is inherently burdensome to reach out,” Schindler said. “To have friends who care about you is wonderful, but there is a time to get more help, or different kinds of help.”

One of the most effective treatments for depression is cognitive behavioral therapy, Kerr said. This type of therapy trains people to control their thoughts, which have a direct effect on their feelings and behavior.  

People with depression often need to find their most reliable friends for support and find a counselor that can help them work through their issues without judgment, Kerr said.

“Once you learn to get the bully out of your head and get the best friend in your head,” Kerr said, “you’ll be able to relate to people more.”

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