Health in the Media

This blog looks at health issues in the news

Can Depression Lead To Low Grades?

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Given the debilitating effect depression can have on a sufferer, it’s not surprising that it can effect every area of a person’s life. It can distort  how you see yourself, your life, and those around you. Sufferers of depression can see things in a more negative light than non-sufferers and sometimes are often find it difficult to see the positive in a situation and focus on the negatives. The symptoms can range from difficulty concentrating to thoughts of suicide and death. Sometimes the depression can be so severe that the person many suffer psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations and delusion. The Counselling and Personal Development Service at DCU  provides a professional and completely confidential service, which is available to all registered DCU students free of charge. Health in the media spoke with a counselor from the Department about the benefits of seeing a counselor.

At times we can all get so close to a problem that we cannot see a solution. A counselling session provides a Student with a safe

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space to step back from their problem and ask for some advice on how to proceed.

About 25% of young people have suffered from depression before they’ve turned 24 but most do not look for help. This is largely due to a lack of understanding about what depression is and also fear of what their friends might say. The counselor told us,

It’s not just students who are reluctant to come to counselling, many people have concerns about coming to such a service and fear of what others may say can be one of those reasons…It is also worth remembering, it usually is nobody’s business that a student is attending the service and it is up to the student whether or not they disclose that they are seeing a counsellor.

Also  people who are depressed can be made to feel worse because some of the symptoms the person displays can be construed by  family and friends  as laziness or a refusal to be social.

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This can cause further exacerbate the problem and leave the person feeling even lower. Due to this, it’s not  surprising that a link between low grades and depression has being made. A recent article published on Canadian online news forum, Ottawa Citizen talks about this link. It points to numerous possible causes for the condition such as, “Feeling like a failure, being bullied, not fitting in or feeling rejected”. It also notes that teenagers/young adults, “tend to be hypersensitive to situations that you might consider minor, but which could have devastating effects on their self-esteem and self-worth.” Swedish researchers have found a link between low grades and a risk of suicide in people before the age of 35.

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In an article printed on www.medicalnewstodday.com in October 2007,  “A new study from the medical university Karolinska Institute and the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare, shows that young people leaving the Swedish elementary school…with the lowest average grades, run approximately three times the risk of committing suicide compared with those who graduate with top or very high grades.”  If these studies are correct than it is vital for students who may be feeling depressed to go and see their college counselor to avoid their grades falling and adding to their depression. Below is some advice from a trained counselor on the topic of seeking counseling at college.

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Full interview with counselor from the Counselling and Personal Development Service at DCU

What kind of help does the service offer students?

In the Student Counselling & Personal Development Service we offer non-judgemental professional counselling and support on a wide range of personal, family and social issues that have a significantly negative impact on a students’ academic life. If the Students issue is primarily impacting on their academic work we would encourage the Student to first approach their personal tutor (visit your school’s secretary office for details), a relevant academic staff member or the chairperson of their programme. It’s also advised to visit the DCU registry site, specifically the student information area. If these avenues have left the issue unresolved then we would encourage the Student to make an appointment to come in and see us so we can assist the student to find a solution to their issue. Some of the academic type issues we deal with are: Time Management, Loss of Motivation, Procrastination, Stress Management, Academic/Staff Relationships, Fear of Failure, Exam Anxiety, Exam panic etc. Where the issue for a Student is mainly personal they may find a resolution by talking to a trusted friend, a family member, their G.P., a student support and development staff member,a tutor etc. However there are times when it’s valuable to elicit the input of a professional counselor. The kinds of issues dealt with are: Family difficulties, Bereavement. Trauma, Rape, Unplanned pregnancy, Sexuality, Addictions, Anxieties, Depression, Eating problems/ disorders (anorexia, bulimia), Self Harm, Suicide (suicidal thoughts and feelings, attempts by self or friend, suicide by significant other), Harassment/ bullying/discrimination, abuse etc.

For a more complete list of the issues the Counselling Service deals with go to http://www4.dcu.ie/students/counselling/issues.shtml There is a handy guide for Students thinking of using the service available here http://www4.dcu.ie/students/counselling/leaflets/CPD_Service.pdf and a collection of self-help leaflets here http://www4.dcu.ie/students/counselling/factsheets.shtml

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Do students sometimes put off coming to you because they of fear of what their friends might think?

It’s not just students who are reluctant to come to counselling, many people have concerns about coming to such a service and fear of what others may say can be one of those reasons. It is important that anyone considering using the service remembers that we offer a confidential service. The service is discreetly located in a suite of offices with a private waiting room so anyone that has a concern about being ‘spotted’ should feel comfortable in the environment we offer. It is also worth remembering, it usually is nobody’s business that a student is attending the service and it is up to the student whether or not they disclose that they are seeing a counsellor. An exception would be a situation for example where a student needs an Extenuating Circumstances form from us in which case their attendance will, with their consent, be disclosed to the necessary course chairperson. The days of keeping our private matters private, of ‘not airing our dirty washing in pubic’ and men not doing emotions or getting in touch with their feelings is fading. Counselling helps and even a small number of sessions can have a lifelong positive effect. We are well aware that for some overcoming the fear of what others think and of the counselling process itself are the toughest parts of the process. The majority of students, once they have had their first appointment find that the fear of what others think leaves them and they focus on making things right for themselves with the help of their counselor.

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Can students go to counselling just to talk and ask advice rather than for something more serious?

Absolutely; Yes! There are times when a Student just cannot get to grips with something, can’t find the head space to get organised or sorted so a counselling session or two can help them get on track and focused. At times we can all get so close to a problem that we cannot see a solution. A counselling session provides a Student with a safe space to step back from their problem and ask for some advice on how to proceed. At times, dealing with the ‘minor’ issues by asking for support from tutors etc. means a student can sort out a lot of issues on their own but at times some more focused help is need and that is where the confidential services of a professional counsellor can help.

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Do many students use the service?

Thankfully yes, a lot of both undergrad and post-grad students use the service. In the past there was a stigma associated with seeing a counsellor but today, especially amongst younger people, attending counselling is seen by many as a positive thing. Whilst the numbers using the service are consistently high we do know that there are student out there who could possibly benefit from
the service but who, for their own reasons, won’t make an appointment and come to see us: it would be great if the Service could reach them too so fellow students supporting their friends toseek support is of significant help in this regard.

How do you make an appointment to see a counsellor?

The simplest way to make an appointment is to go to https://www.dcu.ie/students/counselling/counsellingportal/Login.aspx and fill in the online form there. Students will then hear from Marie McNamara(Secretary to the Counselling & Personal Development Service) inviting them to call into her office, CG72 in the Henry Grattan Building, to complete a second intake form, which will take approx. 10-15 mins. The filling in of both forms completes the registration with the Service and both of these forms are held confidentially by the Service. Once registered, Marie will contact you to set up your first appointment with one of our Counselors. If a student has any difficulty with the online form they can drop into Marie in CG72 and she will be able to assist them.

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