Second semester blues: Depression at Rhodes

 By Azabeluncedo Zwezwe The beginning of the fourth and final term has, in previous years, seen a marked rise in attempted and successful suicides and the number of students visiting the counselling centre. In a recent survey conducted by the Mental Health Foundation, statistics have shown that 50% of university students have exhibited signs of clinical anxiety and more than one in ten have suffered from clinical depression. As the year nears completion, workloads increase, the pressure mounts and the expectations of success begin to stress many students. Activate engaged in a sensitive but necessary conversation with students dealing with depression. My first year was fine, but this year things have changed. I became angrier at the world and irritable. I felt alone, like no one really cared for me. When my friends told me I should go for counselling, I didn’t want to go and admit that I was depressed, because I was ashamed. I always thought depression was for older people. It started affecting my studies and that’s when I realised that I had a serious problem. After I went to the counselling centre I felt a lot better and started socialising with other people. I feel a lot better now, though I still go to the counselling centre because I still get depressed occasionally.”
Anonymous Second year student 

 “Depression is not about feeling depressed or writing suicidal poetry about how your boyfriend/girlfriend dumped you. It’s a serious mental illness. When depression crept in my life everything changed. I had days where I didn’t leave my bed, not because I was sick, but because I didn’t feel I could face the day. I couldn’t control my anxiety enough to venture outdoors in public, let alone a lecture theatre with hundreds of judging eyes. I felt constantly guilty for not going to lectures. I rapidly became more and more behind in my work. I gained weight from being inactive, which made me more self-conscious than I already was, and started binge eating. Loneliness came into play as I disliked myself so much, I distanced myself from my closest friends. Enough was enough. I was so over feeling the way I did and decided to end it. I couldn’t deal with anxiety, binge eating and mood swings. Suicide did cross my mind but I knew there was another way. I decided to go to the counselling centre. I felt the benefits of counselling after a few weeks and didn’t feel so completely helpless. I couldn’t have caught up on all my academic work in time to even think about sitting the end of the year exams. I decided the best thing to do was to resign from the University. It was one of the toughest decisions I had to make, but the University was really supportive.”  
Anonymous second-year(No longer at Rhodes University) 

 “I lost my parents when I was in grade eight; I grew up living with my uncle. I am naturally anti-social. When they passed away I didn’t know what was happening – it’s now that I realise what I have been missing all along. I feel so isolated, though I’m surrounded by thousands of people daily. I study 95% of my time, just to run away from the world, and it’s the only way for me to get through a day. I started feeling depressed at an early stage of life. I was the only child at home and there was never anyone I could sit and talk to. I used to cry myself to sleep every night. Things have not changed that much because I still feel alone, though it’s not the same now.”Anonymous first-year BCom student 

 “When I first came here everything was okay, in fact the first semester was marvellous. But this semester I started missing my family and everything at home. I feel like I could just pack up my bags and leave because now I don’t even know why I am here. When I first came here the food in res was okay but now I hate it and I hate everything here. I want my mom’s breakfast. When I think about home I just cry all the time. It’s even worse when I call my mom I just want to see her. When my sister calls, she says I’m naïve and that I should grow up. I have been going for counselling and it’s not helping – instead it’s getting worse each day. I want to pack up and leave but I can’t waste my mother’s money. I came especially here for law but now I no longer care about that, all I want is to be home. I’m simply just working for a pass at this stage so that I can leave this place and go back home to Cape Town.”
Anoynomous second-year BA student  

 “I have been suffering from depression for almost six years now. My problems are anxiety and low self-esteem. I usually think low of myself and habitually feel bad about myself all the time. I don’t believe in myself or in my abilities that I can do well academically. I get frustrated over nothing and become very sad. I have recently started going for counselling and it’s really good. After my first session, I felt like I was something and that was a good feeling. The main reason I went to the counselling centre is because this was affecting my studies and my social life. Being depressed is not a good thing but I encourage people to go to the counselling centre because, contrary to popular belief, the psychologists there don’t judge you but listen to what you have to say.”
Anoynomous-second year BA student 

 “Depression is one of the biggest problems that students face at Rhodes University. One of the most common problems that students face is the feeling of isolation and loneliness [that accompany] academic and social problems. Depression affects people in different ways and there are a range of signs which may indicate if depression is trying to invade in your life. The most common symptoms of depression are feelings of anxiety and, primarily, being sad all the time. If you notice these signs then students should take it seriously because they might be affected by depression.”
Boitumelo Seana Intern counselling psychologist

The legitimacy of our contributors has been verified by the Activate editors. Names are kept anonymous on request, as these stories are of a sensitive and personal nature.


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