I would say that the opposite of depression is not happiness, but vitality

Any guesses on who said those words (my title)? Keep reading…

Okay, I must admit I have horrible short term memory but today as we were discussing depression someone (sorry I forgot who you were) mentioned that Colby diagnoses two students (correct me if I’m mistaken) a day with depression? Or maybe it was prescribing antidepressants to two people a day-I’m not positive but the exact number is not really that relevant.  I work at the health center and I know that the counselors are always busy. Now, going into to see the health center counselors in and of itself does not mean that these people are depressed but it is a fact that the health center’s counselors are always busy.

Before I continue and get to my point I want to also remind you of our discussion on the effects of stress and memory on students in school especially during exam/finals weeks. No one really knows the answer but it is worth noting that stress decreases neurogenesis and lowers BDNF in the dentate gyrus. Now remember it is the dentate gyrus that is believed to contribute to new memories…probably not a function that should be abnormal when studying, eh?

Anyways, I know how much some of you enjoyed Andrew Solomon’s autobiographical narrative of his battle with depression and I found a related article at a University of Michigan’s website in which Solomon addresses the issue of depression in college. I’ll recap the gist of this interview:

” Solomon noted that adolescents often are afraid to admit to themselves and others that they suffer from a mental illness. At a recent conference at Yale, Solomon asked a group of students how many of them suffered from depression. After a few giggles, he said, only one student raised his hand, but after several minutes, nearly two-thirds of them had done so. He said it was disheartening to see a group of highly-motivated, academically successful students react in this way.”

Solomon goes on to say while knowledge about this growing problem (depression) is increasing in university and college systems making it possible for future program to address this issue there is still a negative stigma that exists making it difficult for students to talk about it. He also mentions the other roadblock to treating this problem is the misunderstanding of what the disease entails. ” He noted that medical professionals often are quick to prescribe drugs such as Valium, which alleviate the symptoms of depression but don’t get to the root of the problem. This root, Solomon said, is not a feeling of sadness, but rather a feeling of helplessness and the lack of ability to grapple with everyday concerns.”

“The experience of depression is not so much about feeling incredibly sad, but feeling incredibly devitalized, and not having any of the essential energy that constitutes being alive or any of the feelings that make up our day-to-day experience…The key to relieving his depressive symptoms, he said, was seeking professional help and learning how to reduce the fear associated with everyday responsibilities. He believes the individuals best equipped to deal with depression are able to recognize their illness and coexist with it. The most important thing, he said, is to understand that depression is a disease, but one that can be treated.

I thought this was a good recap and conclusion of Solomon and depression. If you want to read the whole article you can….http://ur.umich.edu/0203/Mar10_03/03.shtml

7 thoughts on “I would say that the opposite of depression is not happiness, but vitality

  1. I think this is a good point, although I think that there are two breeds of adolescents. Those who are able to come to terms with their illness and get the proper treatment and those who are in denial and refuse to identify with that stereotyped identity. I think there are more and more adolescents who are realizing that depression is a serious illness and it shouldn’t be judged. I also think society is becoming more open to depression. On the other hand I’m not sure about how many adolescents are falsely diagnosing themselves with depression. I wonder how many teens and young adults try to acquire medication they do not really need. Although I don’t know what the benefit of unneeded anti-depressants is….


  2. Thanks for sharing this info, Duy! I can remember when depression wicked taboo back in high school, and I think it is interesting that, as I have gone through college, it seems to be more and more talked about and acknowledged. This could be because we’re all older and wiser (who know’s if it’s still taboo in high schools), but regardless, I think we still have a LONG way to go before we get better understanding.


  3. What an interesting way of seeing the issues surrounding depression. I think Solomon hit the nail on the head when he said it is about the “root” of the problem, not just prescribing medicine to temporarily relieve a bigger issue. It is something to think about in our society. In this modern age of medicine, I often think pharmaceutical companies are thriving by selling medicines which often mask the real issues at hand. I also found it interesting that stress decreases neurogenesis and lowers BDNF in the dentate gyrus – useful for studying! What a concept. Perhaps college campuses should also be looking at the root of depression, the rising numbers of depressed college students and the stressful situations college students increasingly face.


  4. I thought this was a really interesting point. I also really liked what Solomon said about antidepressants not solving the root of the problem, I think we put too much emphasis on treating the symptoms of diseases without trying to prevent the causes. It is unfortunate that depression and other mental illnesses have such a taboo around them, because the more people know about them, the more people are likely to get help or be aware of the issue.


  5. I definitely agree with what Kristen brought up about how we tend to put emphasis on treating symptoms rather than seeking out the causes. There was also a post from later on in this blog about the “Mental Illness Epidemic” that addressed the increasing prevalence of mental illness, specifically depression, in college campuses. The vignette about the Yale students was quite worth noting– under such pressure to perform and succeed, it is easy to understand college students’ intentions to mask their problem or find a “quick-fix”. Popping a Valium to keep you going is easy and private; making a bi-weekly trip to the counselor’s office isn’t.


  6. I loved the quote about how depression is not based in sadness, but rather a deep sense of helplessness and lack of energy. I think the two latter things certainly cause immense sadness — I know if I felt completely out of control of my life and didn’t have the energy to do anything that made me happy, I’d be extremely sad, too. This kind of makes me think differently (more “acceptingly”) of animal models. We tend to say LH models don’t reliably represent depression, but maybe they do a little more than we originally thought.


  7. It is interesting to hear about the reactions of the college students when asked about depression (mental illness). Since our discussions about depression in class I have not been able to help bringing up some interesting points during conversation with friends (I know, kinda heavy for casual dana dinner conversation…but sometimes I can’t help it…it’s like word vomit) and I have been so surprised at my friends ease to talk about the subject. Several have even admitted to and talked about their experiences being depressed and with various treatments and antidepressants. I loved hearing about their various experiences and I think after the initial awkwardness they kinda liked telling a friend about it.

    Although we have a long way to go in understanding the illness, it makes me optimistic to know that maybe mental illness is on its way to becoming a little less taboo to talk about and more open to constructive discussion.


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