Counsel depression, say no to drugs

By Suanna Gutierrez |Staff Writer|

It’s estimated that 25 to 50 percent of college students in the U.S. who are seen in counseling and at student health centers are taking antidepressants. According to the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) those numbers have been on the rise in the past decade.

Antidepressants should not be the sole agent in the fight against depression for college students.

A prescription alone cannot induce a healthy psychological recovery needed to battle and overcome depression in anyone. The real causes of some one’s depression should be evaluated and diagnosed before prescribing potentially harmful drugs.

A national study conducted by NEJM reported that of 13,500 college students, nearly 45 percent, reported being so depressed that they had difficulty functioning, and 94 percent reported feeling overwhelmed by everything they had to do.

Many of the students reported in the survey met the criteria for antidepressants, especially with the increased stress of college life.

However, the college lifestyle, which may be driving their need for medicated therapy, may also make them vulnerable to misusing their prescribed medication.

Misuse of serotonin-reuptake inhibitor antidepressants, such as popularly prescribed Paxil, Zoloft or Prozac can result in adverse side effects.

According to helpguide.org, typical side effects from antidepressants include insomnia, decreased sex drive, weight gain and anxiety. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration also requires that all depression medications include a warning label outlining the increased risk of suicide in children and young adults.

With the considerable risk of such damaging side effects, the number of college students using prescription antidepressants should be decreasing instead rising.

Even though antidepressants should not be used as a sole solution to depression, they can help overcome it.

Antidepressants should be used in alliance with counseling, therapy, wellness education, close health monitoring and the support of medical experts. CSUSB is a campus fortunate enough to have these resources to offer students as a solution to whatever level of depression they may be enduring.

“The research is pretty clear,” said Dr. Terry Schmitt, psychologist and five-year Associate Director of counseling at CSUSB’s Student Health and Psychological Counseling Center. “A combination of therapy and medication provides more benefit than either one alone.”

Schmitt says that the licensed therapists, psychologists, family practitioners, physicians and psychiatrists, that comprise CSUSB’s integrated Student Health and Psychological Counseling Center, prefer that students who are seeking treatment for depression be seen by both services when being prescribed an antidepressant.

“Antidepressants are only prescribed when other solutions have been ruled out,” said Schmitt. “We want to do everything possible to help students turn a corner in their depression.”

The CSUSB integrated health and psychological center is excellent in assisting students on their paths to legitimately curing their depression.

According to Schmitt, before any service is provided by a health or psychological center to battle depression, an extensive examination is conducted to look into a students’ past history of depression by questionnaire. The questionnaire’s findings are then shared between the student and a counselor to clarify the specific effects depression is having on them.

Much like the prescription of antidepressants, counseling services are offered on a case-by-case basis through CSUSB’s health and psychological center.

“One of the things we work on is to educate the student body about depression, to let them know that this is more common than most people think.” said Schmitt. “We want to eliminate the stigma of seeking help and show people it’s common to have these problems.”

The CSUSB Student Health and Psychological Center is taking appropriate and effective approaches in reducing depression amongst college students without relying on prescription drugs to do the job.

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