In a recent study from the University of California at Berkeley, researchers found that roughly 67% of graduate students report feeling hopeless at least once annually and 54% experience depression. Mental health and wellness are not easy subjects to broach, even with our closest friends. Yet the consequences of remaining silent on such matters can be extremely harmful
On Wednesday, February 8th, the OUTreach LGBTQ and Armed Forces (AFG) student groups co-hosted a panel during Booth’s Health and Wellness Week titled, “Courage to Reach Out.” Moderated by OUTreach co-chair, Rachel Chamberlain (‘17), participants spoke candidly and bravely about their experiences with depression, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and general feelings of hopelessness to a crowd of Booth students and faculty.
Katie Wurzbach (‘17), a veteran of the United States Army, shed light on veterans’ battles with PTSD: “You feel like you should be able to deal with it,” she said. “It’s so different for each person that it can be really hard to understand.” So many times popular opinion tells us that if you’re having a tough time, then you are not strong. But the panelists reminded us how important it is to resist those uninformed notions and to seek help.
Austin Fang (‘17), a member of the Graduate Business Council Executive Committee and an active member of OUTreach, reminded the audience that we cannot forget the marginalized communities who do not have the resources to cope with mental health issues. “Transgender populations have some of the highest levels of depression and suicide,” he said. “We have to remember that some people really need the extra support.” Fang also urged attendees to “have deeper conversations that go beyond the span of the morning Metra ride” with those that seem unwell.
Wurzbach encouraged the audience to be forthright with asking tough questions of friends who seem ill: “Sometimes folks don't know how to share how they're feeling...I feel really thankful that I was taught to ask people if they’re having suicidal thoughts...it opens up the conversation.”
Depression and feelings of sadness can make it difficult to connect with coworkers and can negatively impact our professional outcomes. It’s important to understand the warning signs so that we can help ourselves and others. Students should recognize excessive weight gain or loss due to changes in eating habits, excessive lethargy, and irritability lasting longer than a couple of weeks as clear warning signs that it’s time to seek help. Thoughts of suicide should be taken seriously.
"If you can catch things early, you have a better chance of managing the symptoms than if you wait," shared Andrew Janiszewski (‘18), a dual member of both OUTreach and AFG. “Even if you don’t have any serious signs of clinical illness, counseling is a resource that can be valuable for everyone.”
As a first step, students should seek confidential support from Student Counseling Services, located at 5555 S Woodlawn Ave, in person (weekdays, 8:30am-5:00pm) or via phone at (773) 702-9800 (24 hours).
Additionally, if you are experiencing the Chicago winter blues, take some of the following measures to begin feeling better: get outside for a walk or run, create a regular workout schedule, invest in a sun lamp for those cloudy days, and be sure to reach out and talk with a close friend or family member. And remember: you are not alone.
John encourages Booth students and faculty to take care of each other during this winter season. Be well.