November 18, 2010
In a post-modern theory-driven country of constant movement and an urgent societal demand for success, depression is a less-than-exciting, seemingly trendy illness. Sufferers (or partakers) consume pills like Prozac like daily vitamins; the issue is old news. Glamorous depression-stricken celebrities like Kurt Cobain and Sylvia Plath have willingly and publicly left this world, and with them died the mass fascination with (then) newly popular suicidal thought.
But when was the issue of depression news in the revealing, explanatory sense? How did the illness arise, and is it Biblical? Is it even a legitimate disease, or an excuse to secede from society and become a recluse?
According to webmd.com, “Everyone has felt depressed. Yet the sadness and other symptoms of depression that are intense and last for long periods of time can signal clinical depression or major depression, a serious medical illness that needs professional care.”
Other sources say depression can be inherited; children of families with a history of depression are perhaps more vulnerable to suffering from it. Medicinenet.com said the illness can be triggered by a significant event.
“A serious loss, chronic illness, difficult relationship, financial problem, or any unwelcome change in life patterns can trigger a depressive episode,” the website said. Environmental susceptibility and certain medications can also influence the severity of depression.
According to psychcentral.com, the average age of triggered mental health conditions is 18 to 24. Depression in colleges has spiked drastically in the past twenty years, but the issue is often kept quiet. Academic stress, major transitions, and the weight of huge decisions play factors in the rise of the illness.
Fascination with depression and suicide in teens and young adults has increased through the exploitation of celebrities. Kurt Cobain was an international idol and an icon for teenage angst in the 90’s. His fame sprouted from his sometimes too-truthful lyrics and an overall angry-at-life reputation, but was arguably intensified through his public struggle with depression and eventual suicide.
He is remembered immortally through the still-popular recordings of the band Nirvana, in which he was the frontman. Fans and media pay tribute to his death through programs like “E: True Hollywood Story” and websites such as www.burntout.com. Sylvia Plath is memorialized through her poetry and numerous biographies concerning her tumultuous marriage and several attempts at suicide.
Why is a potentially fatal issue like this glorified, and these figures made into role models?
Suicide is present in the gospels; Judas takes his own life upon betraying Jesus. Hopelessness is seen all over the Biblical map; God-seekers cry out for help in times of despair.
College campuses nationwide offer help to students dealing with these issues. The most common problem seen in young adults is the unwillingness to seek help for fear of appearing a certain way. Counseling is completely confidential, and encouraged for anyone struggling with severe stress or depressive tendencies.
OBU’s counseling center is located in downstairs Shawnee Hall.