‘Tis the Season to Be Moody

Darius Akente, biology major, studies for finals in the library.
Darius Akente, biology major, studies for finals in the library. (PHOTO BY ASHLEY OLIVER)

With finals looming, some CUNY York College students are concerned that the work load they are given by professors may lead to clinical depression.

To diagnose clinical depression, the most severe form of depression, the American Psychiatric Association uses the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.  Dr. Rodolfo Sandin, a licensed psychiatrist of over 40 years at Woodhull Medical and Mental Health Center in Brooklyn, said, “Plenty workload is mental abuse which triggers depression. It isn’t healthy for professors to give too much work.”

Academic workload appears to be a major contributor to depression in college students. Katy Sharapova, a 20-year-old York College Biology major, said she was diagnosed with clinical depression in 2012. “I’m always crying,” she said. “I have assignments due every day, which gives me more anxiety. It’s like the professors have no sympathy or remorse.”

Marcia Arifitil, a sophomore, said success comes from quality work. “I don’t just want to do the work and pass by the skin of my teeth, I want to do quality work and receive a good grade that I can be proud of,” Arifitil said, adding that some professors need to give students more time.

Kadianne Haughton, who works at Lutheran Medical Center in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, confirms the prevalence of the link between the workload and depression in college students. She takes care of a 20 year old college student. “[The patient] suffers from manic depression and suicidal ideation from getting too much work in school,” she said. Often, she said, the students who may seem very happy are the ones that are the most depressed because they do not want others to worry about them.

20 year old Psychology major Keanu Hypolite is one example. “I am depressed, [the workload] is just too much,” said Hypolite. “No one understands how I feel, in addition to outside work. So I just have to wear a smile and keep it pushing. I thought college was supposed to make me grow as a person, but I feel like I’m crumbling inside.”

York biology professor, Abbass Hussain said, “The pro of a lot of homework is it forces students to learn, but every student learns differently and too much [school work] may lead to anxiety which may lead to uncontrolled stress.”

Depression is a psychiatric illness that many believe never goes away completely. “Most psychiatric illnesses start in late teens or early adolescence,” said Central Brooklyn pharmaceutical representative, Gary Garnett. “The scary part is [depression] is idiomatic, so we know what can cause it, but we don’t know why it doesn’t go away.”

Sandin attributes students masking depression to the lack of a relationships that students have with their professors. He said, “If [students] cannot cope, they have to talk to their family, or someone they can trust. If they don’t trust their professors, they’re never going to tell [anyone] that they’re depressed and they’ll make excuses for not doing their work. Until then, it’ll get worse.”

While some students believe that they are being overburdened by assignments, some medical professionals believe that managing heavy workloads develops a level of maturity.  “Assigning a lot of work is appropriate,” said Metropolitan Hospital Center psychiatrist, Dr. Elvin Parson. “Students have to learn how to handle pressure and deadlines in the real world. The consequences of not being able to handle it are a lot lessened in college. If they let that bother them, then they are not mature enough.”

Sandin observed that gender is also a factor in depression. “Genotypically, depression is more prevalent in females because they have more hormones, making them more prone to emotional issues,” he said. “Females mature faster than men, so [depression] has nothing to do with maturity.”

Sociology major Kaeleen Dewar seemed to agree.

“College is about time management,” said Dewar. “My roommate is depressed, I understand [college] is a lot, but that’s the point. She stresses too much about the quality of her work, but you never see males stressing anything.”

Despite the pressure, some students have expressed the need for a heavy workload to instill discipline and rigor. “The problem with students is they don’t have discipline. As a student, I know a lot of work is beneficial because it helps [students] learn more because they know there’s a consequence if they don’t complete it by a certain time,” Hypolite said. “If I have a professor who doesn’t assign a lot of work, when they do give an assignment, I’m not going to take it seriously. There has to be a balance, but students need to be responsible and manage pressure better.”

Educators and psychiatrists stress the need for students and professors to find a common ground to prevent clinical depression. Sandin said, “It’s important that [students] don’t abandon their studies because that can lead to depression, too.” He added that when students do not have anything to do, they feel useless. “Professors still need to limit the amount of work they give.”

The gravity of the issue requires a collaborative effort of students, professors, and York’s administration. “[Students] should always communicate with their professor,”  said 21-year-old Political Science major Tanisha Albert. “That way, [students] will know what is required without feeling burdened. But, I doubt the work load will change. That’s what separates college from high school.”

Sidney Smith, the manager of the office of Veteran’s Affairs at York said students who are depressed should seek counseling or psychotherapy.

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