Education on Depression Will Create Safer Environment
by Sophie Cloherty on Friday, February 7th, 2014
On January 17th, 2014, Madison Holleran, a 19-year old track star at the University of Pennsylvania, jumped off a parking garage to her death. Her father told the New York Post that she had spoken about her depression to her family, who, in turn, encouraged her to seek a therapist. The news of this tragedy quickly spread across the country. The idea that this successful and well-loved girl was driven to commit suicide led many to the realization that depression does not discriminate.
The National Institute of Health states that depression is a clinical medical illness that directly affects brain chemistry and function. Studies show that the adolescent age group is most at-risk for such an illness, as lack of self-confidence and personality issues are prevalent among youth. With symptoms ranging from insomnia to listlessness, depression can stem from harmful environments or more natural sources such as genetics. Harvard Medical School reports that depression strikes an estimated 8.3% of teens in the United States. With so many diagnosed, how can Milton best offer help to students suffering from depression?
Beginning freshman year, the faculty reaches out to its struggling students. According to Time Magazine, chronic high stress can kill neurons and prevent the creation of new brain cells, thus leading to depression. Milton Academy is undeniably a stressful environment: exams have just ended, midterm history papers are around the corner, college decisions come out in less than two months, the list goes on. As the year continues and the burden of work piles on, stress might potentially lead to major depression in susceptible people.
However, various resources are available for students who are having trouble coping with Milton’s high-tempo academic life. The Skills Center offers study help, peer tutoring programs, time management advice, and organizational assistance. In addition, teachers are always open to one-on-one meetings outside of class time. These services can help lighten the academic burden of a struggling student.
Milton’s counseling provides another method for coping for those dealing with academic pressures, in addition to issues unrelated to school. Through Milton’s Outreach program, students can contact counselors 24/7 and also set up weekly meetings. Similarly, ISS, Independent Student Support, made up of trained members of the senior class, is another outlet available so that students who are intimidated by the counseling process or who would rather speak to a student have access to necessary guidance. These groups demonstrate Milton’s dedication to support its struggling students and its genuine care.
Milton does an extensive amount to educate the community. Although arguably uninformative, last year’s assembly on “aevidum,” a made-up word to express assurance towards those struggling with depression, started up a very difficult conversation about depression. The speaker might not have been effective in communicating his ideas, but he sparked discussion in classrooms and among community members about subjects that are often shirked. What are the signs of depression? How can depression be helped? How are kids at Milton affected by depression? These questions may not have been resolved in the speech, but many community members were driven to look for the answers, leading to communal growth.
Milton can only provide so much support for its students. Ultimately, the student or those around him or her must make the decision to seek help. However, the school and the community must continue to make greater efforts to educate the community through more speakers or in-class discussions, as those diagnosed with depression can often feel alienated. An anonymous student struggling with depression stated, “I think Milton does a lot to help its students through depression, but a lot of the times, I feel that there’s a negative connotation associated with depression. I’ve come to find out on my own that there’s nothing wrong with having this condition, but Milton could do more to educate and shape public perception around the issue.” She continued, suggesting “more structured Affective Education classes centered around depression” and “more effective speakers.”
Without a support system and peers who are knowledgeable about handling this condition, depression may seem endless. In a community that openly talks about depression, its symptoms, and suicide prevention, perhaps students suffering from destructive symptoms will feel more comfortable seeking out the help that Milton so readily provides.
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