Studying and depression

Depression is a mental illness that has been in the headliDepressionnes recently. I always think “mental illness” is a slightly derogatory term and just consider myself living with a long-term illness. That’s just me though and I don’t want to (and won’t) get into a debate about the correct term to use. Certainly a significant number of students, at some time in their lives, have to face this illness. So I thought it might be worthwhile writing a blog from a “depressed student’s” point of view.

Firstly, what is it like?

I can’t speak for others, so can only give you my view. It’s not that I feel upset, suicidal or want to cry. It is just a world devoid of any joy. I was getting no happiness from 2 wonderful kids, a good job and a wonderful, loving wife. In fact, there was no happiness at all.

What caused it?

Almost without doubt, stress caused this illness. And that is why I am writing this on a student blog. A number of students will face huge amounts of stress during their time studying – whether it be exams, research, work, or a combination of all three. In my case, it was a build-up of stress and then a “triggering event”. I won’t say what my trigger event was and it is not relevant to anyone else.

What to do?

If you can, talk to your partner but, most of all, see your GP. They are great and only want to help. My GP talked to me about my lifestyle, including work, and came to the conclusion that it would have been surprising if something hadn’t “snapped”. I am on anti-depressants and have been for a couple of years now.

Studying and depression?

I must point out that I had depression before starting my latest study programme. Did it make me hesitate before starting my MSc? Darn right it did! But the important thing is having a balanced lifestyle and I made studying a part of that balance. Depression has never made me struggle meeting deadlines. In fact, my job is a senior (directorship) role and is very deadline-focused. Plenty of stress on its own. So depression was (in my mind) never a reason not to study.

If a student out there is worried about being depressed, my single bit of advice is to see your GP. You’re not alone and none of your friends or family will (or certainly shouldn’t) be “judgemental”. I was incredibly surprised when I mentioned it, how many of my friends said they had suffered from depression at some point too.

Depression is not a reason not to study but, if not dealt with, might be a reason some students stop studying. I would encourage you to seek help, talk to others and don’t let it be a reason not to achieve your goals.

Good luck to all those starting or continuing their studies in 2018.

David is studying MSc in Professional Accountancy by distance learning in London.

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