Mental Illness and The College Student

Ok, this is a little random.
I was wandering around the internet at about 6 in the morning after pulling an all-nighter to try to get a few more tracks for my cd done (I’m a musician recording in my apartment) and I stumbled upon (or more like finally paid attention to…) Yahoo Health. After looking into the section labeled encyclopedia and reading up on a disease I was recently (about 4 or 5 months ago) diagnosed with - Bipolar.

I had no idea that it was as interesting as I have now learned. I also read up on the medication I am on and several alternative medications and treatments (including natural herbal treatments and behavior modifications to stabalize ones-self). I found this all fascinating and started to look into Yahoo! groups for mentally ill persons. I also found several groups of college students offering an extended support network for those suffering from such diseases (bipolar, clinical depression, or schizophrenia).

I was just hoping to create discussion here (quite possibly the coolest message board ever) about college, bipolar illness, and coping with mental problems such as mania or depressive swings.

Any advice for someone who is ultra curious and looking to learn everything possible about this?

Might be worth letting one of the academic staff know - they are usually v. understanding, and can give you some leeway with deadlines etc if they coincide with a rough patch.

Change your major to psychology, you’ll learn amazing amounts about such things :smiley:

No, for real. I spent all evening yesterday reading case studies just for curiosity’s sake, but to everyone else, it looked like I was working hard!

I used to have huge problems with depression, and I think the greater knowledge of therapy I had from researching it helped me implement it much better when I had to use it myself (although some people don’t want to understand what the therapist is teaching them…I don’t get that, personally, but many psychologists who have to have therapy themselves seem to feel that way, so keep that in mind). Now, things are much better for me, and I’m really looking forward to being able to research mental illnesses and contribute to the knowledge base on how to treat them.

Why do you suppose mental illness is so prominent amongst the college set? Do you think it’s the pressure to decide what you’re going to do with the rest of your life? It seems like the percentage of depressives/mentally ill is MUCH higher amongst the 18-21 set than it is in the rest of the population. Why is that?

Sometimes I think that today’s kids are more unprepared for adult life than they were years ago…maybe because they’re coddled more in this generation than they were years ago. I dunno…it just seems that responsibility throws these kids in ways it didn’t before.

Now, I’m not saying that there aren’t plenty of people who would have had mental health issues regardless, but I find it interesting that so many times, the onset coincides with college. Any opinions?

It’s a time of life in which all the choices, or a substantial portion of them, are yours to make…along with a sense that you might be stuck with those choices from then on. Not just career-path, either. Sex. Politics. Religion. Where to live, how to be, who to be. All during the first few years of living like a real adult (for many students at least).

Note that these are all real reasons for feeling real feelings and/or experiencing real confusion.

My advice is to steer clear of the mental health system. Lots of well-intentioned folks working there (along with those who are less so), but they are very much wrapped up in an ideology that says these real feelings and cognitions are symptoms of a pathological brain condition that needs to be addressed with pharmaceuticals.

• They, and ancillary/parallel services including the police, have a lot of officially granted coercive powers over those diagnosed “mentally ill”. That plus widespread fear of us (i.e., they think we’re violent) means that if your diagnoses is known, you can be removed from any situation that becomes a confrontation wherein you stand up for yourself. And in today’s increasingly Brave New World, it is more and more true that once diagnosed your MH status will be available, much like a criminal record. Believe me, forced treatment is real, it is pervasive, and it is no fucking fun.

• Their wonderful little pills help lots of people but also harm lots of people. They would like to have you believe that psychiatric pharmaceuticals were developed to address specific biochemical insufficiencies that are well-understood. They’ll tell you they are like insulin, that they simply replace what your body is short of. Horseshit. Psych meds are strong; they are often addictive; they are often physically destructive of healthy nerve tissue, i.e., permanent neural damage including brain damage; and they attack symptoms, not well-understood processes.

• You’re better off not medicalizing your uncomfortable thoughts and feelings. With rare exceptions, even the most horribly unpleasant and frazzling of them are a natural thing, and when you interfere with that you may blunt the processes I spoke of in the opening paragraph: the sorting out of huge life-sized issues, the painting of dreams, the identification and resolution of fears, and etc.

Very well put, AHunter3. Your perception of the issue is a lot like mine. While there are people who are truly ill, I think the inherent fear of failure at this time in a young adult’s life is natural, and sometimes, just adjusting schedules and expectations – and allowing the person to be unsure – could do wonders for their mental health. I think we expect too much of people at a very uncertain time in their lives. The stress of making grades, deciding on careers, falling in love, not falling in love…all these things are a part of growing up and shouldn’t be scheduled into a four-year period just because society wants us to get out there and save the world.

And yet, for others, they’re a life-saver. I would advise the OP to talk to a DOCTOR before deciding about treatment.

I don’t agree. Happy people with low stress levels do almost everything better than unhappy people and/or people with high stress levels. Their relationships are better, they deal with setbacks better, their immune systems are better, they are more productive at work, they are more charitable, they are more creative, they live longer, they have more self discipline, etc. etc. If a person wants to avoid all the negatives associated with bad moods and make their life and the lives of others easier then good for them. It’ll make the world a better place (for everyone) if they make that decision, but at the end of the day its up to them. I do agree that forced treatment is wrong, even when I was delusional and now that I’m not I’d still be opposed to forced treatment. I thought they could only force treatment when you were a threat to self or others, or it was court ordered as a result of a crime.

As to the original post, I am a college student who has suffered from delusional schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, insomnia and depression. The schizophrenia went away when I realized I was delusional and not actually living in reality. The anxiety & depression went away with nutrional therapy. Where are these schizophrenia support groups for college students though, I’d like to read some of them.

In response to the last post, I found all this stuff on Yahoo! Health and then it redirected me to Yahoo groups. I assume that these could be read easily without signing up, or there are links to health blogs that are very available.

Also, a doctor (at a family practice in a nearby town) has put me on small doses of constant medication to stop my severe mood swings. So far, I seem to be accepting the medication well, and I am handling life a lot better than I was before.

This is the point where I also learned that I have a family history of mental illness. My cousin and I were discussing her mother who experienced severe hallucinations and was diagnosed with schizophrenia. My own two sisters were diagnosed with mental illnesses… one with clinical depression and another with, well, something (I haven’t seen her in quite some time).

I don’t know if the high number of mentally ill adults is higher in that age range simply because of college, or because of some other reasons. Any other insights on this?

Wesley Clark:

Indeed. Happy, solidly self-confident “together” people are all of these things. But there’s no genuine shortcut. There is no pharmaceutical substitute for wisdom.

They can force treatment upon you if, in their unsupported subjective opinion you potentially are, or might be, a threat to others, or to self, the latter including at times “making inappropriate value judgments”. One of our more radical and outspoken activists, Leonard Roy Frank, was subjected to involuntary psychiatry for investigating Orthodox Judaism instead of seeking a new lucrative job after losing a good position, because his parents were Very Worried and called a shrink. One of my associates on Long Island was subjected to involuntary psychiatry for openly contemplating divorce. And it is not just incarceration: the theoretically progressive State of New York has subjected involuntary detainees to involuntary electroshock (long series of treatments, too). Sexually active young women, non-heterosexual people, elderlly people who don’t “act age-appropriate”… the only nice thing I can think of to say is that, so far, in the US, it hasn’t been used for blatantly political purposes (psychiatrizing you for belonging to the wrong party, etc). It’s mainly used against the inconvenient and disruptive, or on behalf of concerned relatives, employers, and other interested parties who express some worries. There are no standards of proof that must be met, i.e., they don’t have to demonstrate existing dangerous behavior, not even of the non-illegal sort. Outcomes depend on the attitudes of judges, and some judges rubber-stamp every commitment hearing that comes before them, lest someone they release goes on to slash up subway riders and make the next headlines.

No treatment is being forced on anyone, and psychiatry is NOT the boogy-man you make it out to be. Where are you getting your information-the Church of Scientology?
brad_mac2, hang in there. It gets easier as time goes on, and don’t listen to anyone tell you that they know “better than you” on how to get treatment. Pay attention to how YOU feel, and how your doctor feels.

I don’t agree because happiness is about 60% genetic. Numerous pharmacological, nutrional and behavioral traits that have nothing to do with psychology (things like regular exercise, sleep levels, exposure to light) can affect happiness levels intensely. Endless things that don’t rely on psychology can affect happiness/depression levels. Being mentally together is in all likelihood a symptom of happiness just as much as happiness is a symptom of being mentally together. I started a thread on the relationship between negative outlooks and mood for depression where people debated if being mentally unsound was a result of depression or if depression was a result of being mentally unsound. The same applies to happiness, being mentally sound is probably a side effect of being happy just as much as being happy is a side effect of being mentally sound. I know when I’m happy my problems don’t seem as insurmountable but when I’m depressed they come across as gigantic and unavoidable. However at the end of the day they are exactly the same problem.

I don’t want to take away from your thread so I"ll reply to that part.

As for coping with depression or mood swings, I don’t know how. I have never had mania, but I have had depressive episodes. There is no real way to cope with them in my experience that makes a huge difference.

What exactly is it that you’re looking for? I know a reasonably large amount about complimentary nutrition for mood disorders if you have questions, because I may have read something on it. However complimentary medicine can be dangerous. SAMe, which is good for depression, can aggrevate mania in bipolar people. DLPA and chocamine are also good for depression, but they can aggravate schizophrenia. There is alot of overlap between these illnesses so that is a problem. So it is a somewhat dangerous game where you could make one illness better and make another worse at the same time.

If you want a big book of causes & complimentary treatments for depression read the book dealing with depression naturally. The author covers alot of causes & treatments for depression.

brad_mac2, my awareness of my own mental illness goes back to my own college days over forty years ago, but I think it began earlier than that. One of the symptoms of depression in adolescence is guilt, and I had plenty of that for no particular reason. In college, the first sign was waking up every morning at 3:00 a.m. I was becoming difficult to get along with and uncentered. I seemed to have no real sense of identity. It wasn’t sadness that I felt so much as disconnected.

Much of this is hard to remember because I had several rounds of shock treatment in a hospital. I was in the hospital at least twice. This was in the early 1960’s and my parents chose this treatment for me because it had been successful in treating my father’s depression. Given the circumstances at the time, I think they made the best decision they could. But the shock treatment back then was much stronger than it is now and it has done some permanent damage.

One of the most difficult things about depression is that I could not recognize it when it was happening to me again. That was because my brain was not functioning in a way that was able to judge my own feelings and behavior accurately.

I became suicidal in 1966 and had no idea that it was depression again despite my own history. I was in a different college in a different city. I landed in a different hospital and, with the luck of the draw, had a horrible psychiatrist who misdiagnosed me and gave me the wrong meds. Those medications just led to worse problems when I was released. It took me two years to get back on my feet and return to school.

I continued to have a sort of mild depression all the time in the late sixties, seventies, and eighties, and sometimes I would have bouts of severe depression in which I would sometimes have suicidal impulses. The closest I came was in 1979.

In 1989, I couldn’t teach anymore. I couldn’t concentrate enough to keep my wits about me. My physician put me in the hospital and asked a psychiatrist to see me. Even then I had to ask him if it was depression again.

This time I had the right therapist who put me on prozac for the first time. That has made all the difference in the world. I’ve been in the hospital once when I had problems I needed to work through with help. The medicine that I take has some side effects and I won’t return to teaching.

But this medication has allowed me finally to develop a sense of self. I am no longer hostile and anxious. Even my agoraphobia is beginning to fall away. And last year I flew for the first time in over thirty years. I give full credit to my therapist that I see once a month and to the medications which he has adjusted over the last 16 years.

You are right that there is no pharmaceutical substitute for wisdom. But it was prozac that allowed me to use the wisdom that I had gained over the years and to add to it.

I want to make it clear to anyone reading that I have much respect for AHunter3 and his comments. He comes to this discussion with different experiences from mine and with legitimate concerns which I recognize.

My illness is depression and that is the only mood disorder that I address. Also, my experiences may be very different from someone else’s. Having the right therapist is very, very important.

I’ll also point out that it was entering college that triggered a breakdown and major depression for me, which lead to my being diagnosed obsessive-compulsive. I think a lot of it has to do with the shock of a new experience. Many students also go away to school, and perhaps get homesick, they’re under stress, they feel scared. Stress only makes a mental disorder worse, so that’s probably when you first notice it. Looking back, I can see very clearly that I WAS OCD before, but never to the extreme degree it took my freshman year.


Google “Paul Henri Thomas”.

Google “involuntary outpatient commitment”

Google “forced treatment”.
Your pleasant encounters with psychiatry do not mean that other people’s experiences with psychiatry are necessarily pleasant.

The OP may find psychiatric treatment beneficial. I"m not denying that. Nor would I stand in your way when you go to fill your prescriptions. But I was pointing out that the profession is very much geared towards treating every emotional/cognitive unpleasantness as a condition in need of a pharmaceutical, that that’s quite often not a healthy approach to life or feelings, and that those medications are not particularly benign substances to be taking if you don’t have a compelling reason to be taking them. And that having a psychiatric diagnosis / history on the books can be used to discredit a person or cause them to be viewed as “violent” or “crazy” in situations where the same behavior in others is more likely to be accepted. And that, yes, these people have the authority to detain you against your will and force mind-altering chemicals and other treatments upon you, and do use it,

Those are the appropriate disclaimers the OP (and anyone else) needs to read and acknowledge before proceding onwards.

Guin, I’ve been to conferences and sat in large auditoriums packed with people who were veterans of involuntary psychiatric incarceration and/or treatment, and these were all people together enough to get themselves to a conference, lucid enough to understand the issues and have an opinion, involved enough in the world around them to care and show up, and operating within the framework of behaviors that allow one to sit in a conference auditorium and attend workshops and listen to keynote presentations and so on (not to mention negotiating the transit and the hotel accomodations and so on). Oh, and in some fashion possessed of an income sufficient to enable that participation. So I think I have sufficient reason to say the people I’ve personally seen and heard speak out against psychiatric oppresson are just the tip of the iceberg.

Nope. No affiliation, or respect, whatsoever.

I work in a college mental health center as the office manager. If the OP or anyone else has questions about college mental health centers, I may have answers.

This is precisely my point. I think antidepressants are over-prescribed to insulate people from everyday unpleasantness instead of allowing people to draw on their inner strengths, or if that doesn’t work, to adjust their lifestyle to allow them to be who they are instead of who school, parents, and society want them to be. We’re not all cut out to be students, lawyers, or what have you. If a person is stressed out because of school, lightening the workload, changing majors, or even putting off school until later, might all be non-medical solutions to the problem. The fact that you can’t cope with your life doesn’t necessarily mean you need hospitalization, medication, or therapy. Particularly when these show up on your “permanent record” and make it impossible to get insurance down the road.

I would advise the OP to do some research on his options, spend time talking to people in similiar situations, and making his own decision rather then blindly trusting his life to an authority figure in a profession with a LONG and continuing history of abusing its patients.

He may decide that seeing a psychiatrist is the best option; it works for some people and it’s his decision to make. But he should make an educated decision and be aware of what he’s getting himself into.

No treatment is being forced on anyone? I assume you’re not saying that involuntary psychiatry doesn’t exist at all, because it’s so common and I assumed a widely known fact (ever read about the police taking someone to a hospital for an “evaluation”?). Is that what you’re saying or would you care to add some context to that statement?

Oh, it pretty much is.

It’ll be harder to get insurance. Also, forget owning a gun, flying a plane for a living, getting a private pilots license without a lot of hassle, working as a trucker, working any job that requires a security clearance, working in law enforcement, joining the military, and plenty more…

Actually, the opposite is true: Shock is stronger now because more current is required to induce convulsions in anesthetized patients.

I agree wholeheartedly with this; I’d have an even more jaundiced view of the industry if not for a single counselor. If you get help from a professional, shop around very carefully…