It’s a Little Depressing: a closer look at anxiety and depression on campus

by Sarah Owen
news editor

The Millsaps 2013 quality of life survey reported that, of the 256 students who responded, 48 percent reported feeling occasionally “depressed.” 45 percent reported feeling “significantly anxious for longer than a month,” and 69 percent reported feeling “overwhelmed.”

According to the National Institute for Mental Health (NIHM), 30 percent of college students nationwide have reported “feeling so depressed it was hard to function.” That’s pretty depressing.

Why is Millsaps so depressed? NIHM says that depression and other mental illnesses tend to develop during college age, and, as everyone on campus knows, Millsaps is a highly stressful environment, which doesn’t do wonders for the students’ mental health. Not only is Millsaps academically challenging, it also has high levels of involvement in athletics, student organizations and community engagement. It’s no wonder students feel overwhelmed.

Like most colleges, Millsaps has a counseling center free to the student body. It’s staffed by three part-time professional counselors, including Dr. Jim Baugh. He also works at the University of Mississippi Medical Center part-time and is an expert in relationship counseling. He says, “The depression and anxiety rates from what I have seen are pretty equal to UMMC. Maybe there’s a little more depression.” Due to confidentiality agreements, the percentage of students suffering from depression is unavailable, but students come in to the counselors for a variety reasons, including for grief, stress, and relationships. Baugh adds, “Often students come in saying they’re depressed, but it’s more like grief. Depression and grief feel a lot alike, so sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference.”

The counseling center is located in the back of the Student Life Center, which makes many students feel uncomfortable. You have to pass a number of offices and meeting rooms to reach the counselor’s suite. “It may seem out in the open, but there’s a sense of anonymity,” says Lori Genous, director of the Health Initiative. “I see students walking back there all the time, and I honestly have no idea whether or not they’re going to see the counselor or not.” If you are not comfortable visiting the Counseling Center on Campus, Baugh suggests they visit the medical school’s department of psychiatry or even just find a good listener for smaller problems.

Millsaps is trying to implement more programs to help reduce stress and encourage students to seek help for any mental or emotional issues. Genous explains, “It’s my job to help Millsaps become a healthier environment, which includes mental and emotional health.” She suggests the educational programs such as talks and discussions about mental and emotional health will help students to develop healthy habits early. She laughs, “The stressors just get bigger after college. I hope not too much bigger, but
they do.”