This is the first in a series of three blogs about depression.
‘Do I have the courage to share my problem with my lecturers?’ I wondered. I was visiting a therapist who suggested that I inform my professors as my depression was affecting my mental capabilities. At first, I was sure they wouldn’t care that I was spending most of my time messing about, staring into space, or playing games on my computer or on my smartphone. So, after a lot of thought and for the sake of getting good grades, I mailed one of them.’
The response was not what I had expected and it was a huge relief. He granted my request and offered to give me a Pass without even handing in my final paper. He wrote: ‘I feel the need to confide in you. I, too, have struggled with depression for years, and I know it will pass. I have decided to give you a Pass for this course and I would like to add that I hope you are receiving the correct medical help. I think it is advisable to consult with a counselor as well as a psychiatrist, as some depressions are over in about 9 months without the need to take medication, but if meds are required, it is nothing to be ashamed of. Anti-depressants can make a difference. The problem is finding the one that will help you.’
As far as one of my others courses was concerned, I could not ask for a Pass without handing in a paper as it was a requirement for my major, so I asked for an extension, quoting my depression as the cause.
The reply: ‘An extension will be in order and I am glad to hear that you are receiving the appropriate medical help. I have seen far too many students who are too embarrassed by the stigma associated with depression to get the help they need academically and medically when dealing with a depression. If you need any help whatsoever, please don’t hesitate to let me know. I am also prepared to give you extra time on your final assignment.’
Surprise, surprise, surprise! I had not expected that kind of reaction twice. The empathy and concern shown by both professors knocked me over. They confirmed that depression was in fact complex. They confirmed that it was an illness that crippled people in real, practical ways. They confirmed that unfortunately, depression is not spoken about in class even though professors know all about it. They confirmed that it should be out in the open. Professors are far more likely to have known someone who has battled depression than our peers do.